Friday, June 26, 2015
14 Things You Can Learn From Your Pets
Reprinted from www.commonhealth.virgina.gov
When dogs have a job to do, they give it their undivided attention. It turns out people should probably do the same. Stanford researchers found that attention and memory suffer in those who juggle work, email, and web-surfing, compared to those who focus on one task at a time. Other studies suggest employees actually lose time when multitasking.
You won’t catch your pet going from dawn to dusk without any shut-eye. There’s good evidence humans can benefit from catnaps, too. A study involving about 24,000 people indicates regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than people who nap only occasionally. Short naps can also enhance alertness and job performance.
Walk Every Day
Whether you’ve got four legs or two, walking is one of the safest, easiest ways to burn calories and boost heart health. Taking regular walks can also help you: fight depression, lose weight, lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, lower the risk of breast and colon cancer, keep your bones strong, and keep your mind sharp.
People are social animals, and friendships have measurable health benefits. Researchers in Australia followed 1,500 older people for 10 years. Those with the most friends were 22% less likely to die than those with the fewest friends.
Live in the Moment
Living in the moment is one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind”, Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused, such as exercise. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.
Don’t Hold a Grudge
Part of living in the moment is letting bygones be bygones. Let go of old grudges, and you’ll literally breathe easier. Chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function, while forgiveness contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety. People who forgive also tend to have higher self-esteem.
OK, so maybe you don’t have a tail. But you can smile or put a spring in your step when you’re feeling grateful. Researchers have found a strong connection between gratitude and general well-being. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals had better attitudes, exercised more, and had fewer physical complaints.
Indulging in a little silliness may have serious health benefits. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found a stronger sense of humor in people with healthy hearts than in those who had suffered a heart attack. They conclude that “laughter is the best medicine” – especially when it comes to protecting your heart.
Drink Water When You’re Thirsty
Dogs don’t lap up sports drinks when they’ve been playing hard – and most people don’t need to, either. During a typical workout, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water gives your muscles and tissues critical fluid without adding to your calorie count. Be sure to drink more than usual on hot days or when you’re sweating a lot.
Most cats would trade kibble for a can of tuna any day. Luckily, you can choose to make fish a regular part of your diet. Salmon, tuna, trout, and other fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. In addition, Rush University researchers found that people who eat fish at least once a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Goofing off is not just for kids and kittens. In his book, Play, Stuart Brown, MD, writes that playing is a basic human need along with sleeping and eating. Play enhances intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. So take a cue from your pet and devote yourself to an activity that has no purpose other than sheer fun.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
A hike in the woods may be a dog’s idea of bliss, but it has plenty of benefits for the human mind and body, as well. Spending time outdoors can enhance fitness, increase vitamin D levels, and reduce stress. In children, playing in natural settings has also been linked to better distance vision, fewer ADHD symptoms, and better performance in school.
Stretching will keep you limber, but the benefits don’t stop there. In a 10-week study, volunteers who did no exercise other than stretching experienced surprising physical changes. Besides improving flexibility, they increased their muscle strength, power, and endurance. Although the study was a small one, the results suggest stretching may be a good alternative for people who have a condition that rules out traditional strength training.