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The best self-help book in the world would be titled “Feel Better – Right Now!”

Here’s what it would say.

First, exercise.

Second, get a pet.

And here’s why the People’s Therapist is always beating these two drums, and will keep beating them for all eternity.

Exercise, especially cardio exercise, releases natural anti-depressants into your body:  endorphins.

Endorphins are terrific.  Best drugs ever.  If you are feeling down, blue, under the weather and terrible – hit the stairmaster for 30 minutes and build up a good sweat.

I defy you to say you don’t feel better.

With endorphins, you always get the right dose, it always works, and there are no side effects.  If you get addicted to endorphins, well, so you might end up hitting the gym a lot.  Not a major downside.

(I won’t bother mentioning that exercise with make you look better and live longer, too.  Or that you should eat right as a part of an exercise program – and consult your doctor before doing strenuous exercise.  Too obvious.)

The People’s Therapist works out like crazy and he loves it.  The trick is to think of a regular fitness regiment as required maintenance – like flossing your teeth.  You just do it, because not doing it would be gross.  So do it.

Try yoga, or jogging, or swimming, or weight-lifting or martial arts or tai-chi or whatever floats your boat.  But get active.

Hey…you wanted to feel better RIGHT NOW, right?

NUMBER TWO:  get a pet.

Here’s why:

People have children for some strange reasons.  They don’t say as much – most people will look at you funny if you even ask them why they have children.

But in reality, for the most part, they have children to satisfy their own unconscious needs.

Maybe they want to mold a young person’s beliefs and values.

Maybe they want to bring someone into the world  who will love them completely.

Maybe they want to bring someone into the world whom they can love completely.

Maybe they want someone who will always be there for them.

Maybe they want someone they can always be there for.

Unfortunately, real, human children don’t work so well for these purposes.  They are not moldable, at least not after the first few years. Real, human children grow up into adolescents and adults, who can decide what they think, and who they will love, and whose love they chose to accept and whether it feels suffocating or controlling to them.  They are often very different from their parents – they might want to vote Republican, or be lesbian – and that can result in friction.  Real, human children can be a challenge.

But with a kitty or a puppy or a little bunny rabbit – NO PROBLEM!

Pets are fantasy children.  It’s no wonder we call them “baby” and “boo-boo” and talk to them in high squeaky voices.  They accept our love without complaint, and they return it in a flood of adoration.  They are moldable, and utterly helpless – but at the same time, much lower maintenance than real children.

Arguable, animal pets are a lot less interesting than real children, but that’s the point.  Animal pets let us regress into children ourselves in a harmless, healthy manner.  We can play at being their mommies and daddies, but it’s only play – the way children play with their dolls.

Pets let us pretend the world is a lot simpler than it really is, because an animal’s world is pretty simple, and they share that simplicity with us.

Every study ever done on the subject produces the same results:  pets make us happy.

IN CONCLUSION…I’m not saying working out or playing with your puppy is going to replace the long-term benefits of psychotherapy.

But a half hour on the treadmill – or staring contentedly at your gold fish – might just make you FEEL BETTER RIGHT NOW!!!

It couldn’t hurt.

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