The Star-Herald

Things you can learn from your pet

For those of us who have had the blessing of enjoying pets in our lives, it goes without saying the unconditional love that they provide.  Here are a few tips that can make your life more meaningful — and yes, even healthier! 

Live in the Moment: Living in the moment may be one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind,” Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.

Don’t Hold a Grudge:  Part of living in the moment is letting bygones be bygones. Let go of old grudges, and you’ll literally breathe easier. Chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function, while forgiveness contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety. People who forgive also tend to have higher self-esteem.

Wag: OK, so maybe you don’t have a tail. But you can smile or put a spring in your step when you’re feeling grateful. Researchers have found a strong connection between gratitude and general well-being. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals had better attitudes, exercised more, and had fewer physical complaints.

Maintain Curiosity: According to a popular saying, curiosity may be hazardous to a cat’s health. But that’s not so for humans. Researchers have found that people who are more curious tend to have a greater sense of meaning in life. Other studies have linked curiosity to psychological well-being and the expansion of knowledge and skills.

Drink Water When You’re Thirsty:  Dogs don’t lap up sports drinks when they’ve been playing hard – and most people don’t need to, either. During a typical workout, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water gives your muscles and tissues critical fluid without adding to your calorie count. Be sure to drink more than usual on hot days or when you’re sweating a lot.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors:  A hike in the woods may be a dog’s idea of bliss, but it has plenty of benefits for the human mind and body, as well. Spending time outdoors can enhance fitness, increase vitamin D levels, and reduce stress. In children, playing in natural settings has also been linked to better distance vision, fewer ADHD symptoms, and better performance in school.

Be Silly:  Indulging in a little silliness may have serious health benefits. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found a stronger sense of humor in people with healthy hearts than in those who had suffered a heart attack. They conclude that “laughter is the best medicine” – especially when it comes to protecting your heart.

Play:  Goofing off is not just for kids and kittens. Playing is a basic human need along with sleeping and eating. Play enhances intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. So take a cue from your pet and devote yourself to an activity that has no purpose other than sheer fun.

Don’t forget to walk every day, take naps, cultivate friendships, don’t hold on to a grudge and most importantly, if you love someone, show it!  More wonderful tips and information can be found at pets.webmd.com.  

Please remember to be responsible pet owners: spay and neuter.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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