Mindfulness is the practice of grounding yourself in the present moment, and it offers many benefits to your physical, mental, and emotional health—including improved cognitive function, lower stress levels, improved immune function, and a greater sense of well-being. .
A regular mindfulness practice, where you consciously create opportunities to be mindful throughout the day, can help you reap those benefits. And while there are plenty of tools that can help you practice mindfulness, there’s one tool that can help you become a more mindful person than you might expect—and that’s your pet.
Let’s look at three ways your pet can help you practice mindfulness—and help you become a more mindful, grounded person in the process.
Pets can calm you down
It’s hard to remember when you’re feeling stressed, your heart is racing, or your thoughts are going a thousand miles a minute. Generally, it’s easier to sink into a more mindful place when you’re feeling calm. And if you need to calm down — and calm down fast — your pet can help.
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that petting a dog for just 15 minutes lowered blood pressure by 10 percent — while another study by researchers at Washington State University found that just 10 minutes of interaction with dogs and cats can significantly reduce cortisol. also known as stress hormones).
So, what if you feel anxious or on edge and want to go to a more quiet, contemplative place? Try spending 10 to 15 minutes of quality pet time with your four-legged friend—and you’ll be feeling calmer before you know it.
Pets can encourage you to do more mindful activities
Meditation is definitely a component of mindfulness. But being mindful extends beyond a meditation practice; It’s about being fully engaged in whatever you’re doing. And so, another way pets can help your mindfulness practice is by encouraging you to engage in more activities—and to do so in a mindful way.
“Pets help their owners become mindful by redirecting them to the present through valued, shared activities,” says Sierra Fisher, a licensed therapist practicing at Healthy Habits Therapy in Charleston, South Carolina. “These activities organically create a state of mindfulness for the owners…because [they] Allow the owner to be in the moment and gain the awareness necessary to be in a conscious state through the care and attention they are giving their pet.”
For example, let’s say your cat needs a bath. It’s hard to multitask or think about other things when you have a water-resistant cat trying to escape the tub. Instead, you’re forced to focus on the task at hand (cleaning up before your cat escapes). It grounds you in the present moment, turning bath time into a mindfulness practice.
Or suppose you are playing with your dog in the backyard. If you’re present with what you’re doing and fully enjoying the experience (and how could you not, when your puppy looks so good at retrieving the ball?), it’s no longer just a game of fetch; It is part of your mindfulness practice.
The point is, this view of a mindfulness practice is that it’s the practice of being fully engaged with what you’re doing—and pets offer a variety of activities where you can practice that active engagement and presence.
Pets can show you what mindfulness looks like
If you want to become more mindful, surrounding yourself with examples of mindfulness in action is a good place to start. “When you’re with someone who’s mindful, just being in their presence helps you become more aware,” says mindfulness coach and author Joy Raines.
And arguably the best example of mindfulness in your life? Your pet.
Animal brains don’t work the same way as humans; Your pet doesn’t actually have the ability to ruminate about the past or think about the future (a common experience that prevents people from being aware). For example, “Pets are the ultimate example of being in the moment,” says Christina P. Kantzavelos, a Joshua Tree and San Diego, CA-based therapist with Begin Within Today and author of the Begin Within Healing journal. “They can only ‘be’.”
And by spending time with your pet (and observing them “being at ease”), you can see what mindfulness looks like in action—and apply what you see to your own mindfulness practice.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, changing your sleeping habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.