Emotional Wellness and Spiritual Connections are two of Doctor of Living’s 5 Pillars of Health. The 5 Pillars of Health help us to establish a framework for wellness. To review, the 5 Pillars of Health™ are nutrition, physical activity, toxin avoidance, emotional wellness and spiritual connections. Wellness is working towards one’s maximal potential. Pets can help us achieve better emotional wellness and spiritual connections.
Spiritual connections are connections with one another, connections with our Creator, connections with our Earth. Most believe with or without supportive science, that we are interconnected with each other. There are very few people, even complete hermits, that can live without any human connection for too long.
The field of quantum physics is uncovering the mystery of energy and how we are all connected through energy. In Christianity, we call this the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trilogy in Christianity is represented by God in three forms: the father, the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Energy is a mechanical term that is quantifiable and the study of quantum physics has been able to help quantify this mechanical energy within human beings.
Ask yourself, over your life, whether you have experienced an energy level in a room. Remember a time when you walked into a room and people were fighting, for example. What did the room feel like? Now remember a time when you walked into a room and two persons were kissing, how did that feel? We have an intuitive subconscious sense of energy levels.
Energy reflects our spiritual connections with the world we live in. We have positive energy sometimes and negative energy other times. Energy fields and energy medicine have been called pseudoscience at times in history, but have truly begun to revolutionize some of our understanding of how our brains relate to the World. As we begin to better understand our subconscious thought process, as well as physical energy, we can begin to better explain spiritual connections with the World around us.
What about our pets? Why do we have them and what do they do for us?
Let’s start with some statistics, 36.5% of US households own a dog or over 43 million. Many own more than own with nearly 70 million dogs nationwide as pets. 30.4% or over 36 million own a cat. Many households own more than one with 74 million cats nationwide. Together, there are about just under ½ as many dogs and cats in the US as there are people. That’s a lot of dogs and cats!!!
Why? We are dog and cat owners and we love our pets very much. We primarily keep them as companions, although also have some that are working animals. These companions are our part of our family. When we plan out the day, we have to plan for the pets. When we travel, we plan for the pets. They are as much part of our life as children. They need medical care, feeding, water. They are part of our being.
Still, the question remains why? Why did we choose pets? Why do others choose pets?
Part of our very nature is to spiritually connect with our World. Our pets are connected to us in a way that humans cannot be. They remind connect us to the spirit of nature. The spirit of the Earth and its inhabitants. They bring us joy. They bring us pain. They remind us that we are alive through our observation and participation in their lives. We love our pets. We don’t just like them. This love is not one-way, but two-way. It is reciprocated, often without fail by the very creatures we love. Sure, simple psychologists could argue that it’s all about the food, water, and stability, but it’s more than that. How many people have seen the pictures of a fallen soldier’s pet lying on the grave? Incredibly touching to see this. This isn’t about another meal! This is real, tender love, which is reciprocated by an animal who may have a smaller brain that we do and may be unable to use critical thinking skills, but that matters in our lives.
Wellness is about achieving our maximal potential. How do pets help us do this? Recall that we must build a framework for wellness first. If we need spiritual connections, then pets fill part of that need. We all need spiritual connections in some way with our Creator, our Earth/nature, and one another. Some people that have trouble with humans, because of abuse, hurt, social anxiety, addictions need a comfort animal to spiritually connect with, as the human relationships are too toxic for them.
Pets can impact both our spiritual connections and our emotional wellness. Incidence of anxiety and depression is rising worldwide, most of which is undiagnosed, but self-reported. A metaanalysis on pets and mental health, conducted by Dr. Helen Louise Brooks from the University of Liverpool in the UK was published in BMC Psychiatry. The meta-analysis was designed to evaluate people that already had mental illness and looked at the impact of having a pet. “Overall the review found that pets helped these participants to manage their emotions and offered a distraction from the symptoms of their mental health condition.” Study co-author Dr. Kelly Rushton said, “We feel that pet ownership has a valuable contribution to mental health, so should be incorporated into individual care plans of patients.” Depending on the numbers you look at roughly less than 30% of persons with self-reported depression actually seek professional treatment. Active and untreated mental illness can prevent us from achieving or maximal potential: Wellness!
So, a pet can help with emotional wellness.
It isn’t just to fill a void though. The pets don’t just fill a need. They add to the beauty of the love that already exists in the family. They are a value-added being that brings love, joy, pain, and some frustration at times. We choose to add pets, not because we need them, so much as we want them. And our whole being seems to know what we need. According to the American Heart Association, “having a pet-a dog in particular-likely lowers the risk of heart disease.”
According to the Executive Editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, Daniel DeNoon, “The evidence reviewed by the AHA indicates that dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a better cholesterol profile, have lower blood pressure, be less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and be more likely to survive a heart attack.”
Cats likely do the same things, but part of the assumption with dogs is that they literally chase people to older age at the time of death, because of the exercise associated with owning a dog. I heard from an aunt recently that owns a cat, that she has been trying to get outside more though and she pushes her cat around in a stroller. Go for it cat lovers!!! What do you have to lose??
We love our pets and there are numerous health benefits associated with owning them. They are not for everyone, but for those that can have pets, you should give it a try, it might just save your life! In the meantime, it can help stabilize your emotional wellness, particularly if you are prone to depression or anxiety. It can help spiritually connect with another being. It will likely get you out in nature, a proven way to improve health and wellness. It will get you moving to keep up. There will be good times and bad, but the good times, in our experience, far outweigh the bad. So, this week, keep an eye on #doctorofliving @doctorofliving on Instagram, @doctorofliving on Twitter. I will share some pictures of our wonderful pets and hope that they bring your joy. Feel free to do the same.
Also, if you prefer a podcast format, check out our How Pets Can Prevent Health Problems Podcast. Let us know in the comments what worked and what didn’t. Give us a sense of what you would love for me to look into or talk about.
Wellness is a way of life. Welcome to the Wellness
Improvement Process because we are all a work in progress. Bless you all,
 “Pet Statistics.” https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx. Accessed March 12th, 2019.
 “It’s official: Pets benefit our mental health.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320950.php. March 12th, 2019.
 “A dog could be your hearts best friend.” Daniel DeNoon. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-dog-could-be-your-hearts-best-friend-201305226291. Accessed March 12th, 2019.