Tag: animals

Here’s how animals are good for heart health!

Guest Blog Post By Payal Bhandari M.D.

We all know dogs are man’s best friend. But did you know dogs can also be your heart’s best friend? Studies have shown owning a pet – especially a dog – can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are many reasons that can explain this link, but the general understanding is dog owners tend to exercise more regularly and lead a healthier lifestyle. Pets provide social support to their owners and help them stick with a new habit. So if you start the healthy habit of walking your dog on a daily basis, you can be sure your dog will hold you to it.

A scientific statement released by the American Heart Association (AHA) describes how studies found ownership of dogs can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Physical Activity

An online survey in which 5,253 Japanese adults participated revealed that dog owners are physically more active than non-owners, and was 54% more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity.

Physical activity can lower your blood pressure and decrease the likelihood of becoming obese, which is good for your heart health. A daily 30 minute walk with your dog, and occasional bouts of playing fetch will increase your health.

Lower Stress Levels

Animals are very good at lowering your stress levels. Pets have a calming presence and are natural mood enhancers. They’re also very good listeners. When you feel stressed and have to get something off your chest, your pet will be happy to listen to your vent without judgment. Walking with your dog, petting, and hugging your pet will also reduce stress and lower your blood pressure.

Research suggests dog-owners’ heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal quicker during times of stress, compared to non-owners.

Mental Health

Pets can even have a positive effect on your mental health, and people who are mentally healthy tend to live longer.

Pets have helped many people suffering from anxiety or depression get better. When you have to care for a pet, it shifts the focus away from your own problems. Pets love their owners unconditionally, helping you feel better about yourself.

Pets also make you feel less lonely, making them the perfect companion for older and sick people, as well as single children. You’re also bound to be more social – strangers are more likely to interact with you while walking your dog.

Improve Your Heart Health with a Pet

The companionship a pet provides has many health benefits, but don’t get a pet just to reduce your heart disease risk. You need to be sure you’ll be able to provide, care, and play with your pet.

Few things are so uplifting than the excitement your pet shows greeting you when you come home. The powerful bond which can exist between pet and owner is therapeutic; pets are tuned in to understand your behavior and emotions, and know when you need extra love and support.

Consider adopting a pet if your heart health concerns you, or if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease. Your new best friend might just be the answer to living longer and being healthier.

About the Author

Payal Bhandari M.D. is a family physician at Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Dr. Bhandari delivers integrative, holistic care which looks at the whole person. She is consistently able to understand the root cause of any illness and effectively transform health.

Photo credit text: {Photo credit: SplitShire}

Staying sane as an advocate in the social media age

Guest blog by Michael Howie from The Fur-Bearers

Every advocate has been there: you make a comment on a news article, or on a social media post. You’re calm, articulate, and provide citations to back your position. You click ‘send’ and nod confidently to yourself, knowing you’ve contributed to a great intellectual debate that will turn hearts and minds to a more humane ideal.

Then the ding.

‘Lol, granola tree hugger sukz.’

If you’re anything like me, you feel an immediate rage swell up. You’ve been dismissed and laughed at by some anonymous individual, who likely enjoys kicking puppies. Maybe the last part isn’t true, and you’re projecting. But nonetheless, you need to respond and show them that you’re smarter, justified, and speaking for what is right.

Right about here is where it goes to crap.

You’ve entered into an endless cycle. You’ll get angry, you’ll eat a whole pizza, you’ll get depressed, you’ll fall asleep watching Star Wars (the Phantom Menace, if you’re unlucky), and wake up with a sore neck, drained, covered in cold pizza grease. To top it all off, the jerk you were arguing with probably won’t even remember you.

By giving into anger and getting into a comment war, you’ve wasted time, energy, resources (because your emotional well-being is a precious resource), and a perfectly good pizza/movie night.

The anonymous nature and instant response of the internet – particularly social media sites – gives an outstanding opportunity to sadists, bullies, and generally angry people to ply their trade. There are also people who simply do not agree with you, or whose experiences have led them down a different path. The vast majority of people who oppose your comments in a public forum will not be swayed by your rhetoric, regardless of how well-phrased it may be. You’re feeding this disturbing hunger of theirs by sacrificing yourself, and doing very little for your cause. You’re giving in to anger.

If you’re one of the many people who believe righteous anger is a fuel, you’re partly right. Anger is a good motivator. But it cannot sustain and it should never guide. Even two men on the absolute polar opposite sides of the violence:non-violence spectrum agree on that.

“Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If someone is angry with you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. On the other hand, if you control your anger and show its opposite – love, compassion, tolerance and patience – not only will you remain peaceful, but the other person’s anger will also diminish.”

Dalai Lama

“No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

One man whose life is dedicated to compassion and peace, the other who is still considered one of the greatest military strategists of human existence, and they both think anger is kind of dumb.

But I still struggle with this, even though I was brought up with “never make a decision when you’re angry” Leadership Dad. I understand the logic, the physiological response mechanisms involved, and even the philosophical basis. But I still get angry when dismissed by mean people on the internet.

When I recognize my anger in these cases, I fall back on a meme (because it IS 2015, after all) we shared over at The Fur-Bearers a while back:

Think before you speak…

T: Is it true?

H: Is it helpful?

I: Is it inspiring?

N: Is it necessary?

K: Is it kind?

This exercise is beneficial in three ways, I’ve found. First, it forces you to really consider your potential response, and maybe even your entire argument. Are you actually communicating your point well, and remaining as compassionate as possible?

Next, it forces you to step away from the issue for a minute. I used to tell the reporters who worked for me to get up and take a walk if they were getting frustrated with a particularly difficult assignment; if you get stuck and start banging your head against your desk, you’re not going to write a brilliant article. You’re going to write crap. Taking a breath, focusing on something else, and resetting your brain can lead to some great results.

Finally, and this particularly plays into the social media aspect, it gives someone else a chance to pile on. Whether it’s someone who supports your position jumping on the troll grenade, or another bully adding fuel to the fire, it should jolt you into recognizing the situation for what it is: lose-lose.

This, too, is where the original lesson was formed. After getting into an e-mail battle with a municipal councillor over a wildlife policy, I was advised by my smarter half, that “you presented your information, you did your job. But you can’t fix their ignorance.”

Addendum: following review of this draft, this quote was provided by my smarter half: “Yes, some people are just trolls and general assholes. But others are going to be vocal in opposition to your opinion for numerous other reasons, many of which are legit and valid (to them, at least). To just brush them off as trolls is uncompassionate and simply wrong.

“But your reactions to all forms of opposition should remain the same, basically. Provide the info, offer to expand further if more information is desired. And that’s it. The absorption and commitment to further learning is on the shoulders of the individual.”

Here There Be Dragons: How To Connect With Animals

Guest post by: Sherry Burnett, from Ruby Ranch

This is a story about magic, a tiny speck of magic that appeared in my day. Magic is hard to come by these days, and when it finds you, I hope that you are sufficiently open-minded enough to recognize it.

If you are too jaded, too busy, too logical or too scientifically minded to appreciate magic, you may as well just stop reading now, for you will only roll your eyes.

Yesterday morning, I was taking L.J and Stannie out for their morning exercise. I had just come around the side of the house when I saw some trash on the ground. Or what I thought to be trash. It looked like a little bit of cellophane, like maybe a cigarette pack wrapper, glinting in the sun. I was just about to nudge it with my toe, but thought I saw it move slightly.

I bent down for a closer look, and there, nestled in the grass, was a beautiful dragonfly. He was very large, about three inches from head to tail. His wings were magnificent, not iridescent like I am used to seeing, but a clear, sparkling glass-like quality. I wondered why he was just lying there, almost motionless in the grass. Then I noticed that his wings had a few droplets of morning dew on them, he was probably just waiting for his wings to dry in the sun.

I didn’t want to leave him there to be trampled, so I put my finger near his feet, and he obligingly hopped right on. I was then able to get the closest look I have ever been able to get at a live dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so lovely, so intricate and breathtaking. He was different shades of green and gray, with his large head consisting mainly of two enormous eyes.

I’ve already told you about his wings, and close up, they were even more breathtaking. So delicate, they looked as if they would rip to ribbons in a strong wind. Tiny black veins ran this way and that, creating different sections, or compartments in the wing itself. Where the wings joined together on his back, there was a strange little array of hinge-like components, they looked almost like something man-made, but organic at the same time. I’m certain no human mind could create anything so brilliant, so intricate and beautiful.

After I had finished drinking in his beauty, I wondered what best to do with him? Where could he be safe until his wings dried out? I set him down on a fence post, and continued into the backyard with L.J and Stan. I sat down in a lawn chair, but couldn’t stop thinking about the dragonfly. Finally, deciding that he would be easy prey for any bird, sitting on that fence post, I went to get him. He had moved a little, probably knowing that he was too visible where he was. I put my finger next to his feet, and again, he climbed right on. As I was walking back to my chair with him, I set him on my t-shirt.

By the time I had reached my chair, he had clambered all the way up my shirt, and was now making his way up a section of my hair. I was a little bit startled when he moved from my hair to my face, and the sensation was a little unnerving. His feet had tiny barbs on them, which I could not feel when he was on my finger, but I could certainly feel them on my face! Each step he took was a little prickling sensation, and even now, I can still imagine it. He made his way quite quickly up my chin, over my cheek and straight for my glasses. Once there, he seemed comfortable, and we relaxed like that together for some time. It was somewhat bizarre to look out of the corner of my eye and see his enormous eyes right there, seemingly looking back at me.

After a time, he decided he wasn’t yet quite close enough, and he popped his head right up under my glasses! I took them off, and there we reclined, for probably about 45 minutes. I started to wonder at this whole situation. What possibly could be his motivation, for staying with me for such a long time, and why did he feel the need to be right there-touching my eyelid?

I started to think that maybe he had a message for me. He was trying to show me something. I opened my eye, as best I could with that one prickly little foot still resting on it, and I looked at him. And right at that very moment, (and this is where it gets strange, folks) the name George came to my mind. George was our beautiful Kune Kune pig, who passed away a year ago in August. George and I shared an uncommon bond, and when he left this earth, I was inconsolable, incapacitated for a week. Until a wonderful person told me, don’t worry, you and George will meet again. And you will know, you will recognize each other.

I was breathless, stupefied. I put my finger next to him again, and when he hopped on, I held him in my palm and looked at him. It was a windy morning, and his delicate wings were being buffeted by the breeze, so I held him protectively in my palms. Suddenly, as if he knew his mission had been accomplished, he waggled his head at me ( oh yes, he did!) waved one leg quickly over one bulbous eye, almost in a wave or salute, and he whizzed away on gossamer wings.

I was overcome with emotion. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t sad, I was elated. I sat for a while, smiling, thinking about all the magical things that happen in this universe, every day, if only we choose to see them.

Here there be dragons, and pigs, and spirits. And magic.