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How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition

By Judith Orloff, MD

In Emotional Freedom, my approach to transforming fear has two stages. First, take stock of what makes you afraid and distinguish irrational fears from legitimate intuitions. Second, take appropriate steps to heed protective fears and transform the others with courage. At times you may foresee real danger, but more frequently unproductive fears clobber you.

Therefore as a general rule, train yourself to question fears tied to low self-esteem; we’re all worthy of what’s extraordinary. For example, it’s right to question the fear that you’re too emotionally damaged to love; even the severely wounded can have their hearts opened again. True intuitions will never put you down or support destructive attitudes or behavior. Here are some guidelines for distinguishing legitimate fears from irrational ones:

 

How to Tell Fear from Intuition

Signs of a Reliable Intuition

 Conveys information neutrally, unemotionally

 Feels right in your gut

 Has a compassionate, affirming tone

 Gives crisp, clear impressions that are “seen” first, then felt

 Conveys a detached sensation, like you’re in a theater watching a movie

Signs of an Irrational Fear

 Is highly emotionally charged

 Has cruel, demeaning, or delusional content

 Conveys no gut-centered confirmation or on-target feeling

 Reflects past psychological wounds

 Diminishes centeredness and perspective

For comparison’s sake, I’ll share radically different examples of how I use the above criteria. One morning I got two calls from frightened patients who both claimed to be hearing voices. Truly a typical day in my office! The first came from Bill, a schizophrenic who’d been skimping on his meds. Bill’s inner “voice” kept haranguing him, insisting he was a bad person, that his food was poisoned, that his son was being raped again by the grandmotherly babysitter. Believing these “delusions” (false beliefs unsubstantiated by fact), he was absolutely unhinged. So Bill kept calling the cops, who sent a squad car out twice, but found no threat. Tolerant but tiring of this, the officers warned that if he contacted them again, they’d haul him off to a psychiatric hospital. My other patient, Jean, had been coping with despair about her brother suffering from end-stage AIDS. Jean’s inner “voice” said to immediately fly to New York to join him, though he’d recently been stable. True of authentic intuitions, it came through clear-as-a-bell, oddly matter-of-fact and followed the typical progression of being “seen first,” then felt.

Both patients asked me, “What should I do?’ I urged Bill to take his meds and offered reassurance about his safety, a tack that had lessened his fear many times in our decade of working together. Jean, however, I supported in buying a plane ticket because her intuition felt so imminent, so right. Fortunately, she did, despite the expense and inconvenience to her job. That week her brother took a sudden turn for the worse, slipped into a coma and died within hours. Heart-breaking as witnessing his death was for Jean, she was able to be at her brother’s side in those precious last moments.

Try to separate unhealthy fears from intuition. Though Bill’s case was extreme, you may also have some fears that belittle you or cause you to misinterpret danger. Perhaps in a fit of anger your ex-wife called you “useless” and you believed it. This is not intuition. Nor is being frightened of having cancer whenever a brown spot appears on your skin. Also, be skeptical of long-standing fears, say of heights; these are typically not premonitions.

If you’re an emotional empath, it can be especially tricky to ascertain which fears are authentic, helpful intuitions. Because you tend to absorb other people’s emotions, you may pick up their fear and think it’s your own. To avoid this, always ask yourself, “Is the fear mine or someone else’s?” One dependable way to find out is to distance yourself from the source. Move at least twenty feet away. If you experience relief, it’s likely you’re perceiving another’s fear. Although it’s fine to absorb courage and all positive emotions from others because they’ll strengthen you, you don’t want to absorb negativity. Move away, and keep releasing extraneous fear by exhaling it until the feeling passes.

While some apprehensions may be empathically linked to another’s feelings or, like Jean’s, are distinct intuitive warnings, the more garden variety ones reflect ingrained negative psychological patterns. To resolve these, you must know where they come from and do what’s necessary to loosen their hold.

About the Author: Judith Orloff, MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, is author of the New York Times Best-seller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011). Her other best-sellers are Positive EnergyGuide to Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting-edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness.

Simplify Your Life by Eliminating These 7 Problems

dr akilah el by Dirk de Bruin

Life has a tendency to become overly complicated and stressful, particularly because things change so quickly. I’ve identified seven problems that you can eliminate to make your life a whole lot simpler (which doesn’t mean boring or less interesting).

PROBLEM #1 – TOO MUCH RESPONSIBILITY

Think back to a year or two ago. How much extra responsibility has come into your life since then? You may have too much stuff, too many possessions, too many projects, and too many commitments.

Spreading yourself too thin reduces focus, increases stress, and lowers overall performance.

Too much stuff could include anything from a new cell phone, to a new swimming pool, to a bigger house. It might be nice to have more possessions and new gadgets, but they often come with responsibilities and maintenance. Ask yourself if you’re being “owned” by the things you own.

It’s also exciting to get caught up in many new hobbies or projects. I did this when I got into building websites. Before I knew it I was working on 20 projects at the same time and seeing minimal results across the board. It took me a while to realize that I was working like a maniac, yet none of my projects were anywhere near completion.

These days I’m only working on 2–3 projects in total. Not only do I feel more relaxed because it’s easier to keep track of what I have to do, but I can also see significant progress in my work month after month since I am doing less.

Try to simplify your life. Cut down your possessions, projects, and hobbies to relieve some of the responsibilities that you don’t really need to have.

PROBLEM #2 – LIMITING BELIEFS

Limiting beliefs are negative thoughts that you’ve come to accept as the truth.

Through years of social conditioning, media advertising, and peer pressure you’ve shaped your reality. You’ve decided on the things that you can and cannot do in your life. You’ve also very likely told yourself that you’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to do certain things.

I used to have many limiting beliefs. I always thought I wasn’t smart. I thought I wasn’t cool enough to have many friends or be a person that people wanted to invite to events. I believed that I wasn’t attractive or interesting enough to ever get a girlfriend.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve managed to make a steady income from my own websites, I’ve got a circle of close friends that I’m really happy with, and I haven’t had any problems meeting girls.

In short, the limiting beliefs you (don’t know that you) have could be holding you back from a lot of happiness, success, and even the life you’ve always dreamed of living. Take the time to identify and release them.

PROBLEM #3 – NEGATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Certain relationships can become emotionally draining, and they can even leave you feeling mentally abused and take advantage of.

I used to know someone who I considered a good friend, but the reality was that he would only be a good friend if he wanted something from me. He would never call me just to hang out—only when he needed a lift or place to stay. Eventually I decided that it was time to let go.

I’ve also been in relationships with girls that involved unnecessary jealousy and competition to see who’s right or better.

I know that it can be very difficult to end a relationship like this because there are feelings involved. You have some sort of history together and you hope in vain that things will get better. But these relationships can be toxic.

Be polite and let the person know how you feel, but be prepared to cut them out your life entirely if they’re not willing to make any adjustments.

You’ll be amazed at how much energy and enthusiasm you’ll have after you cut out all the negative and emotionally draining relationships in your life.

PROBLEM #4 – HIGHLY STRESSFUL JOB

When you’re young, you choose your direction, but over the years, you may find that your job creates more stress than you want to deal with. It may even leave you feeling trapped and unhappy about life.

After high-school I went to work with my dad and sister in a supermarket we bought as a family business. Supermarkets are open 15 hours per day, every day of the week, all year.

We had management but we were almost always present in the business to ensure that things ran smoothly. I had no time for anything else but work and sleep for the two-plus years that I worked there. Fortunately the business made good money, but when we got the chance to sell and get out, we took it. Sometimes hard work and sacrifice are worth the effort, but there’s only so long we can sustain that.

Unless you’re doing something you love, consider looking at alternative jobs. Everyone needs money, and sometimes you don’t have immediate options. But you have the power to plan and work toward something different if that’s truly what you want.

PROBLEM #5 – DEBT

Debt enslaves you to other people. It limits the freedom and choices you have, and it might require you to pass on fantastic opportunities because you need to manage your debt first. Aim first to minimize it and then eliminate it.

The first step in this is to stop taking on any additional debt. Don’t buy anything on credit unless it’s a life-threatening situation. Especially stop buying anything like TV’s, vacations, and other gadgets on credit!

Secondly, stop spending money on all unnecessary things and start to pay off your debt as fast as possible. For example, you can stop eating out, cook at home, and use the money you save to pay off your debt.

The faster you become debt free, the faster you’ll be able to have more freedom to follow your own path. Once you pay off your debt, you can start saving money, both for an emergency fund, and to invest in your passions.

PROBLEM #6 – BITTERNESS

Sometimes things happen that are difficult to deal with, like death and other tragedies. Events like these can have a big impact on you—especially because you have no control over the situation, but somehow you still feel you could have done something to prevent it.

A few years back I had a decent amount of money saved up that I lost by making some bad decisions. At the time I thought I knew what I was doing, but reality showed me that I didn’t have a clue at all. After I lost that money, I beat myself up about it for months.

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t change the past. I needed to stop making myself feel bad about it and just make sure to not let it happen again. I’ve made my peace with what happened and now I make smarter choices with my finances.

Learn how you can make peace with your past and move on. You’ll be able to get a lot more out of life (and spread the joy to many others) when you don’t carry bitterness through your day-to-day life.

PROBLEM #7 – HATE

Hate is a poison that leads to anger, sadness and, ultimately, suffering.

If you hold animosity towards anyone, do the work to release it. That hate hurts you more than them, and it slowly degrades the quality of your life.

The best way to remove the hate from your heart is through forgiveness. Be the bigger person, forgive, and move on. Don’t focus on settling the score. Revenge only leads to regret.

If you cut out even just a few of these problems you’ll find that a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. You’ll also have more emotional freedom to enjoy the things you love doing.

www.celestialhealing.net

For more tips on relieving emotional stress or depression please visit our Emotional Wellness Page or click on this linkhttp://www.celestialhealing.net/emotional_stress_therapy.htm

10 Ways To Deal With Negative or Difficult People

by Lori Deschene

I love her to death, but it’s draining to talk to her.

Every time I call this friend of mine, I know what I’m in for: a half-hour rant about everything that’s difficult, miserable or unfair.

Sometimes she focuses on the people she feels have wronged her and other times she explores the general hopelessness of life. She never calls to see how I’m doing, and she rarely listens to what’s going on in my life for more than a minute before shifting the focus back to herself.

I tell myself I call because I care, but sometimes I wonder if I have ulterior motives–to pump up my ego offering good advice, or even to feel better about my own reality.

I’m no saint, and if there’s one thing I know well, we only do things repeatedly if we believe there’s something in it for us. Even if that something is just to feel needed.

I thought about this the other day when a reader wrote to me with an interesting question: “How do you offer compassion to someone who doesn’t seem to deserve it?”

While I believe everyone deserves compassion, I understand what we meant after reading more. She went on to describe her offensive, sexist, racist boss who emotionally exhausts everyone around him. He sounds a lot more hateful than my friend, who is, sadly, just terribly depressed.

But these people have one thing in common: boundless negative energy that ends up affecting everyone around them.

So today I started thinking about how we interact with negative or difficult people. People who seem chronically critical, belligerent, indignant, angry, or just plain rude.

When someone repeatedly drains everyone around them, how do you maintain a sense of compassion without getting sucked into their doom? And how do you act in a way that doesn’t reinforce their negativity–and maybe even helps them?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Resist the urge to judge or assume.

It’s hard to offer someone compassion when you assume you have them pegged. He’s a jerk. She’s a malcontent. He’s an–insert other choice noun. Even if it seems unlikely someone will wake up one day and act differently we have to remember it is possible.

When you think negative thoughts, it comes out in your body language. Someone prone to negativity may feel all too tempted to mirror that. Try coming at them with the positive mindset you wish they had. Expect the best in them. You never know when you might be pleasantly surprised.

2. Dig deeper, but stay out of the hole.

It’s always easier to offer someone compassion if you try to understand where they’re coming from. But that can’t completely justify bad behavior. If you show negative people you support their choice to behave badly, you give them no real incentive to make a change (which they may actually want deep down).

It may help to repeat this in your head when you deal with them: “I understand your pain. But I’m most helpful if I don’t feed into it.” This might help you approach them with both kindness and firmness so they don’t bring you down with them.

3. Maintain a positive boundary.

Some people might tell you to visualize a bright white light around you to maintain a positive space when other people enter it with negativity. This doesn’t actually work for me because I respond better to ideas in words than visualizations. So I tell myself this, “I can only control the positive space I create around myself.”

Then when I interact with this person, I try to do two things, in this order of importance:

  • Protect the positive space around me. When their negativity is too strong to protect it, I need to walk away.
  • Help them feel more positive, not act more positive–which is more likely to create the desired result.

4. Disarm their negativity, even if just for now.

This goes back to the ideas I mentioned above. I know my depressed friend will rant about life’s injustices as long as I let her. Part of me feels tempted to play amateur psychiatrist–get her talking, and then try to help her reframe situations into a more positive light.

Then I remind myself I can’t change her whole way of being in one phone call. She has to want that. I also can’t listen for hours on end, as I’ve done in the past. But I can listen compassionately for a short while and then help her focus on something positive right now, in this moment. I can ask about her upcoming birthday. I can remind her it’s a beautiful day for a walk. Don’t try to solve or fix them. Just aim to help them now.

5. Temper your emotional response.

Negative people often gravitate toward others who react strongly–people who easily offer compassionate or get outraged, or offended. I suspect this gives them a little light in the darkness of their inner world–a sense that they’re not floating alone in their own anger or sadness.

People remember and learn from what you do more than what you say. If you feed into the situation with emotions, you’ll teach them they can depend on you for a reaction. It’s tough not to react because we’re human, but it’s worth practicing.

Once you’ve offered a compassionate ear for as long as you can, respond as calmly as possible with a simple line of fact. If you’re dealing with a rude or angry person, you may want to change the subject to something unrelated: “Dancing with the Stars is on tonight. Planning to watch it?”

6. Question what you’re getting out of it.

Like I mentioned above, we often get something out of relationships with negative people. Get real honest with yourself: have you fallen into a caretaker role because it makes you feel needed? Have you maintained the relationship so you can gossip about this person in a holier-than-thou way with others? Do you have some sort of stake in keeping the things the way they are?

Questioning yourself helps you change the way you respond–which is really all you can control. You can’t make someone think, feel, or act differently. You can be as kind as possible or as combative as possible, and still not change reality for someone else. All you can control is whatyou think and do–and then do your best to help them without hurting yourself.

7. Remember the numbers.

Research shows that people with negative attitudes have significantly higher rates of stress and disease. Someone’s mental state plays a huge role in their physical health. If someone’s making life difficult for people around them, you can be sure they’re doing worse for themselves.

What a sad reality. That someone has so much pain inside them they have to act out just to feel some sense of relief–even if that relief comes from getting a rise out of people. When you remember how much a difficult person is suffering, it’s easier to stay focused on minimizing negativity, as opposed to defending yourself.

8. Don’t take it personally–but know sometimes it is personal.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should never take things personally when you deal with a negative person. I think it’s a little more complicated than that. You can’t write off everything someone says about you just because the person is insensitive or tactless. Even an abrasive person may have a valid point. Try to weigh their comments with a willingness to learn.

Accept that you don’t deserve the excessive emotions in someone’s tone, but weigh their ideas with a willingness to learn. Some of the most useful lessons I’ve learned came from people I wished weren’t right.

9. Act instead of just reacting.

Oftentimes we wait until someone gets angry or depressed before we try to buoy their spirits. If you know someone who seems to deal with difficult thoughts or feelings often (as demonstrated in their behavior) don’t wait for a situation to help them create positive feelings.

Give them a compliment for something they did well. Remind them of a moment when they were happy–as in “Remember when you scored that touchdown during the company picnic? That was awesome!” You’re more apt to want to boost them up when they haven’t brought you down. This may help mitigate that later, and also give them a little relief from their pain.

10. Maintain the right relationship based on reality as it is.

With my friend, I’m always wishing she could be more positive. I consistently put myself in situations where I feel bad because I want to help, because I want her to be happy. I’ve recently realized the best I can do is accept her as she is, let her know I believe in her ability to be happy, and then give her space to make the choice.

That means gently bringing our conversation to a close after I’ve made an effort to help. Or cutting short a night out if I’ve done all I can and it’s draining me. Hopefully she’ll want to change some day. Until then, all I can do is love her, while loving myself enough to take care of my needs. Which often means putting them first.

I’ve learned you can’t always saved the world. But you can make the world a better place by working on yourself–by becoming self-aware, tapping into your compassion, and protecting your positive space. You may even help negative people by fostering a sense of peace within yourself that their negativity can’t pierce.

www.healingpowerhour.com

Food That Will Boost Your State of Mind

By Jennifer Matlack
 

For the longest time, I swore I wasn’t a morning person. As soon as I ate my routine breakfast of a toasted bagel with butter, I had to pinch myself to stay awake.

Recently, I discovered my heavy lids and endless yawns were not a predisposition, but rather a result of my diet. “Carbohydrates have a relaxing effect,” says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., director of the women’s health program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and coauthor of The Serotonin Solution. “And eating too many will make you sleepy,” she says.

Instead of feeling drowsy, I could actually rise and shine in the morning? Absolutely. And you can, too, if you’re mindful of what you eat.

“Your diet ultimately has an impact on how you feel,” says Mary Beth Augustine, R.D., a dietitian at the Continuum Center for Health & Healing in New York City. Banish three unsavory moods by eating the right foods.

Mood: Stressed Out or Tense
You’re running late for an important meeting; you’re working on a tight deadline; you’re waiting for medical results from a serious test. No matter the scenario, strained situations can produce similar physiological reactions in your body. “Your blood pressure rises, your heart rate in-creases and your body makes glucose to give you the energy you need to get through,” says Augustine. There’s also a rise in cortisol, a hormone that, when released over time, can lead to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Foods to reach for:
Complex carbo-hydrates, such as legumes, whole-grain breads and cereals, and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn.

Why it works:
“Carbohydrates destress you by increasing the production of serotonin,” says Dr. Wurtman. This key chemical in your brain improves mood, increases emotional energy and relieves pain.

Keep in mind:
Simple carbohydrates that are refined or processed, such as doughnuts and cookies, up serotonin production faster than complex carbohydrates by quickly releasing glucose, which further increases the brain’s ability to produce serotonin. But by choosing a jelly doughnut over a whole-wheat pita pocket you’ll pay a hefty price in weight gain and compromised healthy eating goals. In addition, for serotonin to tranquilize, carbs need to be eaten on an empty stomach and, surprisingly, without protein.

By the way…
If you experience irritability brought on by premenstrual syndrome (PMS), then you have all the more reason to consume complex carbohydrates. Dr. Wurtman advises eating a baked potato or drinking PMS Escape, a carbohydrate-based beverage that decreases anxiety.

Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

HOW PETS CAN MAKE YOU HAPPIER AND HEALTHIER

Pets are great for childrenProfessionally trained helper animals—such as guide dogs for the blind—offer obvious benefits to us human folk. However, the average domestic pet, such as a dog, cat, rabbit—even a goldfish—can also provide us with many therapeutic benefits. Pets can ease our loneliness, reduce our stress, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide us with unconditional love and affection.

Of course, pet ownership also comes with many responsibilities, and should not be undertaken lightly. To best enjoy a healthy, nurturing relationship with a pet—and experience the many therapeutic benefits a domestic animal can offer—it’s important to choose a pet that’s right for your lifestyle.

How pets can affect mood and health

While most pet owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion animals, many remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of playing with or snuggling up to a furry friend. It’s only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. Studies have found that:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
  • Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
  • Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
  • A pet doesn’t have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.

One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and some pets are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.

 How pets can help to make healthy lifestyle changes

Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can play an important role in easing symptoms of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and anxiety, Caring for a pet can help with those healthy lifestyle changes by:

  • Increasing exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to involve boring repetition at a gym. Taking a dog for a walk, riding a horse, or simply chasing a kitten around are fun ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule.
  • Providing companionship. Isolation and loneliness can make disorders such as depression even worse. Caring for a living animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems. Most pet owners talk to their pets, some even use them to work through their troubles.
  • Helping meet new people. Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks or in a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people in pet stores, clubs, and training classes.
  • Reducing anxiety. The companionship of a dog can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.
  • Adding structure and routine to your day. Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. No matter your mood—depressed, anxious, or stressed—you’ll always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your pet.
  • Providing sensory stress relief. Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. This could involve petting a cat or taking a dog for a walk.

Health Benefits of owning petsPets and older adults

The key to aging well is to effectively handle life’s major changes, such as retirement, the loss of loved ones, and the physical changes of aging. Pets can play an important role in healthy aging by:

  • Helping you find meaning and joy in life. As you age, you’ll lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. You may retire from your career or your children may move far away. Caring for a pet can bring pleasure and help boost your morale and optimism. Taking care of an animal can also provide a sense of self-worth.
  • Staying connected. Maintaining a social network isn’t always easy as you grow older. Retirement, illness, death, and moves can take away close friends and family members. And making new friends can get harder. Dogs especially are a great way for seniors to spark up conversations and meet new people.
  • Boosting vitality. You can overcome many of the physical challenges associated with aging by taking good care of yourself. Pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost your immune system and increase your energy.

Pets and adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia

As part of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients may exhibit a wide variety of behavioral problems, many related to an inability to deal with stress.

  • Research at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine concluded that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a pet in the home.
  • Pets can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication. The playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile animal can help soothe an Alzheimer’s patient and decrease aggressive behavior.
  • In many cases a patient’s problem behavior is a reaction to the stressed response of the primary caretaker. Pets can help ease the stress of caregivers. Cats or caged animals may be more suitable than dogs, which generally require more care and can add to the burden of someone who’s already looking after an Alzheimer’s patient.

Pets and children

Not only do children who grow up with pets have less risk of allergies and asthma, many also learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy from having pets. Unlike parents, pets are never critical and don’t give orders. They are always loving and their mere presence at home can help provide a sense of security in children. Having an ever-present dog or cat, for example, can help ease separation anxiety in children when mom and dad aren’t around. Studies have also shown that pets can help calm hyperactive or overly aggressive kids. Of course, both the pet and the child need to be trained to behave appropriately with each other.

Children and adults alike can benefit from playing with pets, which can be both a source of calmness and relaxation, as well as a source of stimulation for the brain and body. Playing with a pet can even be a doorway to learning for a child. It can stimulate a child’s imagination and curiosity. The rewards of training a dog to perform a new trick, for example, can teach kids the importance of perseverance. Caring for a furry friend can also offer another benefit to a child: immense joy.

Children with learning and other disorders

Some children with autism or other learning difficulties are better able to interact with pets than people. Autistic children often rely on nonverbal cues to communicate, just as pets do. And learning to first connect with a cat or dog, for example, may even help an autistic child in their interactions with people.

    • Pets can help children with learning disabilities learn how to regulate stress and calm themselves, making them better equipped to overcome the challenges of their disorder.
    • Playing and exercising with a pet can help a child with learning disorders stay alert and attentive throughout the day. It can also be a great antidote to stress and frustration caused by the learning disability.
    • Learning to ride a horse can help elevate the self-esteem of disabled children, putting them on a more equal level with kids without disabilities.

Finding a pet that meets your needs and lifestyle

While people who have pets tend to be happier, more independent, and feel more secure than those without pets, it’s important to select the type of pet that is best for you. You’ll benefit most from having a pet whose needs are compatible with your lifestyle and physical capabilities.

Lifestyle considerations that influence your choice in a pet

  • Little outdoor activity– If most of your time is spent at home, consider pets that would be happy to stay with you in that environment. You may enjoy playing with or cuddling a cat or a bunny; watching fish or reptiles; or talking or singing along with a bird.
  • High activity level– If you’re more active and enjoy daily activities outside of your home, especially walking or running, a dog might be right for you. Canine companions thrive on outdoor exercise, keeping you on the move.
  • Small children and the elderly – Families with small children or elderly living in their homes should consider the size and energy level of a pet. Puppies and kittens are usually very active, but delicate creatures that must be handled with care. Large or rambunctious dogs could accidentally harm or knock over a small child or adult who is unsteady on their feet.
  • Other animals in household– Consider the ongoing happiness and ability to adjust of the pets you already have. While your cat or a dog might love to have an animal friend to play with, a pet that has had exclusive access to your attentions may resent sharing you.
  • Home environment– If a neat, tidy home, free of animal hair, occasional muddy footprints and “accidents” is important, then a free-roaming dog or long-haired cat may not be the best choice. You may want to choose pets that are confined to their quarters, such as fish, birds, hamsters, or reptiles.
  • Landscaping concerns– With certain pets, your landscaping will suffer. Many dogs will be tempted to dig holes in your lawn, and dog urine can leave yellow patches—some say unaltered females cause the most damage.
  • Time commitment – Finally, and perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that you’ll be making a commitment that will last the lifetime of the pet – perhaps 10, 15, or 20 years with a dog or cat; as many as 30 years or more with a bird.

Animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities

Animal-assisted therapy involves the use of volunteers’ animals such as horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and fish to interact with patients suffering from disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and a host of developmental disabilities. The animals have been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Pets can also be used for animal-assisted activities. A variety of different organizations offer specially trained animals to visit people in children’s hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospice programs, shelters, and schools. During these visits, people are invited to pet and stroke the animals. Some might groom a dog, hold a rabbit in their lap, or have a cat sit on their bed, for example. Some dogs perform tricks or obedience routines to entertain patients and help take their minds off their problems.

To arrange for pets to visit your facility or to volunteer your pet for animal-assisted therapy or animal-assisted activities, see Finding Therapy Pets in Resources and References section below.

If you are in the Atlanta Georgia area and would like to adopt a cat please call or visit our sponsored Animal Resue Center FurKids