Published: 7th May 2021
With the proven benefits to wellbeing that owning a pet brings and with 41%2 of people stating their mental health is worse that this time last year, it’s of no surprise that pet ownership is at an all-time high. 90%3 of people say their pet helped them cope emotionally during lockdown- not only do pets help to combat stress, they also help to reduce loneliness. Petting an animal for just 10 minutes a day has been proved to reduce cortisol- the stress hormone, and 80% of pet owners say their pet make them feel less lonely4.
In response, Nuffield Health have created a brand new ‘Pet Mindfulness’ class that is available for free on ‘Nuffield Health 24/7’, its digital fitness and wellbeing platform. The class is based on the key principles of mindfulness which has long been shown to have health benefits.
Brendan Street, Emotional Wellbeing Professional Lead at Nuffield Health comments: “Pets can teach us a lot about mindfulness, ourselves and help remind us of some important lessons to lead happier and more authentic lives. There are proven benefits of mindfulness and also health benefits to having a close bond with animals. This class combines both and is great way to spend rewarding time with your pet, and practice focusing your attention. All you need for this is your pet and somewhere comfortable to sit.”
Why Pet Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Incorporating your pet into this as an ‘anchor’ for your focus can have benefits for both you and your pet.
It’s clear that pets can make fantastic companions. In addition, dogs in particular live their lives mindfully:
Acceptance- dogs accept us as we are. They love us despite our flaws or imperfections and don’t make judgments. They don’t ask us to mask our feelings or put on act. That is why our connection with dogs can be so therapeutic. We can simply be ourselves. Taking these lessons into our other relationships can help us to have more genuine and authentic connections with others.
Living in the moment- dogs take experiences as they come. They don’t worry about the future or ruminate about the past. They don’t criticise themselves for feeling how they feel. They simply ‘feel’ without labelling those feelings as bad or wrong. Dogs can teach us how to live in the moment, trusting that difficult feelings will pass.
Being joyful- dogs love to play, jump, chase and simply have fun. They often do this spontaneously without planning or overthinking. Playing is good for the body, mind and spirit often involving movement and activity as well as opening us up to new and creative ideas. It also gives our ‘thinking’ brains a rest.
Share feelings- dogs don’t hide their feelings. They let us know when they are happy to see us, playful, irritable, hungry, or in distress. They don’t pretend everything is ok. This helps us to accurately meet their needs, by feeding, playing or soothing our four-legged friends. Being open about our feelings can help us ensure we get our own needs met.
‘Pet Mindfulness’ is part of a series of emotional wellbeing sessions available on Nuffield Health 24/7, the digital fitness platform and app, including: Introduction to Mindfulness, Calm Space and Deep Breathing.
For more information on Nuffield Health 24/7 visit: 247.nuffieldhealth.com
2 Nuffield Health’s Healthier Nation Index, 2021
3 University of York, 2020, https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/pets-survey-lockdown-loneliness)
Last updated Thursday 13 May 2021
First published on Monday 10 May 2021