Resilience becomes more important as we age. Physical, mental and emotional resilience can reduce your likelihood of injury and keep you positive when the unexpected happens.
Companion animals can be a valuable ally when building up your resilience. After all, your pet is there for you in so many ways: Your fur-sonal trainer, your fuzzy ear when you need to talk and the best snuggler there is.
Here’s how your pets can help to build up your resilience in small, everyday ways.
Building physical resilience with pets
Physical resilience is your body’s ability to face challenges, stay strong and recover quickly from injury. Keys to building and maintaining physical resilience include:
Daily activity — Staying active helps you build strength and balance to help reduce the overall likelihood of injury. But most people don’t build physical resilience by running marathons or pumping iron—regular, consistent physical activity is the best way to stay strong and avoid injury.
Our pets are happy to help us with this goal. After all, resilience-building activity can include everything from walking the dog to playing with your cat in the living room.
Flexibility and mobility — Regular stretching and gentle movement help to keep the body loose and limber as we age. Even small, everyday activities like bending down to connect your dog’s leash or sitting on the floor to play with a puppy can make a significant difference over time.
For a deeper stretch, dog-centered yoga practice, popularly known as “Doga,” offers the chance to sit and nama-stay with your four-legged instructor.
Healthy eating — The balance between exercise and a healthy diet is important for humans and pets alike. Sure, you don’t eat the same food as your pet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t inspire your food choices. From portion control to cutting back on treats, you and your pet can seek a healthy balance together.
The power of play — In our serious world, people seriously underestimate the physical benefits of play. Exercise doesn’t have to feel like punishment, and the positive benefits of having fun with your pets while you stay active are a boon to both mental and physical health.
Building mental resilience with pets
Mental resilience is a trait that can be developed and strengthened throughout your life. It helps to keep you positive on gloomy days or when the realities of life hit especially hard. Here’s how your pets can help to strengthen your mental resilience:
Connect with the community —Mental resilience is about personal strength, and part of that power is knowing when and how to lean on others. Staying connected with the community can be difficult as we age, but you don’t have to go it alone.
Our pets can serve as personal ambassadors to both the wider world and a very unique community of pet parents. Dogs and cats can also serve as a wonderful conversational bridge when meeting new people—after all, who doesn’t love talking about their pet?
Keep your sense of humor — Your sense of humor is an important building block for mental resilience. It’s much easier to stay optimistic when you can get a chuckle out of the day.
Chances are good that your little comedian has done something to make you smile today. Over time, that can lighten up the tough times and make the good days even better. Often, something as small as a funny dog stretch or dramatic kitty yawn can change the whole trajectory of a day. Funny pet moments also offer a great opportunity to share the laughs with friends and family.
Find your purpose — Everyone has days where finding meaning is tough. Fortunately, our pets are there to help us with shaking out of the fog and locating a sense of purpose when it matters the most. A morning walk or warm evening snuggle can be a vital shield during difficult moments.
Building emotional resilience with pets
Emotional resilience is generally understood as the overall wellness in how you think, control your emotions and behave in daily life. This form of resilience helps to protect you from mental health challenges such as anxiety, stress or depression.
Break out of repetitive cycles — It’s very easy to get stuck in an unhealthy routine, and depression and anxiety make getting unstuck extra difficult. Our pets can help by allowing for an added degree of spontaneity in the day.
For example, something as simple as taking a new route on the daily walk can help break you out of a negative thought loop. With your best bud by your side, you can do anything.
Schedule away the stress — Structure is super valuable for building emotional resilience. A well-planned approach to living helps you overcome everyday challenges and offers a cushion when the unexpected happens.
Fortunately, pet ownership comes with some built-in structuring—mealtimes, walks, treat breaks—that can help to punctuate different times of the day.
Seek comfort in friendship — When life gets lonesome, your four-legged companion is there by your side. Researchers at the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) have discovered that pets are valuable for fighting off depression and feelings of lonesomeness. You’ve got a friend in your pet when you need one the most.
Find a source of calm — Pets are a valuable source of calm in your day-to-day existence. In fact, HABRI research has found that petting a companion animal can reduce your blood pressure. Turns out pets are good for the heart in a number of ways!
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