Britain likes to call itself a nation of animal lovers, but I’m sure that this is true of many other countries too. I drive everyone mental as I would love to make my home like Noah’s Ark, full of many different creatures. But don’t worry I’m not an animal hoarder, I just have my cat, Dexter the Bengal (who is snuggled up on my lap right now.) My partner James is always accusing me to being more interested in the cat than him. Whilst I have always been an animal lover, Dexter is actually helping me with my brain injury with animal therapy.
Not only do pets make us happy, they can help improve our health.
Just as well, seeing as this little guy is so crazy, he’s going to cost me a small fortune with the damage he does. He has to pay me back somehow! I don’t think I could take him on Judge Judy to sue him for it.
Research into the positive effects animals have on us goes back 150 years, but it’s only within the last 40 years that we have started to understand the science behind it. When we are with animals we release a hormone which makes us feel happy and trusting. This is Oxytocin. This might be why whenever I see someone walking their dog I feel it’s acceptable to ask the owner if I can give them a little stroke. I wouldn’t do that with a child, they would think I’m really odd and maybe a kidnapper. But with an animal I feel different. This is animal therapy.
OK, I know what your thinking, yes yes it’s very nice that she gets enjoyment out of animals. But that’s not all.
Oxytocin is very special as it ensures the body is ready to boost the healing process. I’m not saying Dexter will heal my brain, but when you have a chronic illness it’s common to suffer other illnesses as well, and your body takes a real hit.
As many brain injury survivors struggle with mental health issues, pets can be a calming influence. That’s why it’s animal therapy.
You never have to worry that the dog will criticise you and make you feel stupid. They just want your love. There might be times that they want more attention than you have the energy for (Dexter is very guilty of this when he is tearing the house up) but they make up for it with their beautiful faces, and letting you know they love you just the way you are.
I also found that as I had limited feeling in my left hand, and therefore I struggled to feel animals fur, it became a way for me to actively recognise when the feeling was returning. And that alone gave me so much joy.
If you haven’t already got an animal in your life, here’s some of the benefits they could offer, for you to consider:
- calming effect due to Oxytocin
- lowers blood pressure
- petting an animal is a great relaxation process
- can diminish overall pain
- lessens feelings of isolation
- lowers affects of anxiety and depression
- offers extra motivation for recovery
Have you got any pets who are making a difference to your life? How do they support you?
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