An unrecognised area of our lives, which has a significant impact on our health, is relationships and this includes our relationship with animals.
Some innovative children’s hospitals in the USA are allowing visits by pets. The program known as healing paws almost never happened due to a myriad of medical and legal concerns. The fact that it did is a testament to those involved.
Michael Aubin the president of the hospital in Jacksonville told USA Today “It’s hard to be in a hospital, especially when you’re suffering from a major illness,” “We can fill that gap in children’s lives and help them recover by bringing one of their family members — their dogs — to them.”
We know that contact with pets reduces stress levels in adults and children. Being in hospital is stressful. Something as simple as a child’s relationship with their pet can make a difference in their recovery. When one inpatient had their first pet visit, “The colour came back in her face. It was a beautiful moment,” Vikki Mioduszewski, the hospital’s public relations manager told USA Today.
Having pets has been shown to have an impact on adult health too. Research has shown people who own pets have lower blood pressure and lower rates of mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Those with dogs, in particular, are more likely to exercise regularly.
Of course the main relationships we have are with family, our friends and us. It is easy sometimes to lose sight of what really matters when incidents occur and people do things, which “annoy us”. In general most of the things which make our blood boil today will not be remembered in a months time and probably not even in a week.
Yet we can end up caught up in the moment when someone is late or has forgotten to do something we asked or has spilled their glass on the carpet.
When you go to a cemetery and look at the headstones there is a theme. It rarely describes the job the person had, how well they dressed, whether they were tidy or punctual or what their pastimes were. It will be mother of, father of, brother of, sister of, grandparent of or similar relationship links. Once a person dies these are the ties that remain. This is not to say that friendships are not important either – they are and for some people their friends are closer than their family.
In the broadest sense the relationships we have are what matter most and are the most enduring. Many people when diagnosed with cancer will talk about the contribution of “toxic” relationships to their illness. Whilst this has never been proved, associations have been shown.
Our relationships do impact our health and sense of wellbeing. We can too easily take those around us for granted. It sometimes takes conscious effort to put little things back into perspective.
Make the effort to nurture your relationships. Your wellbeing and that of those around you will be enhanced.