Accepting Predicaments

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“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants you to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.” ~ Dan Millman

It is generally acknowledged that there are two things we can count on in life: death and taxes. I would offer there are two more: stress and pain, which reveal in emotions such as shame, guilt, fear and anger. And when we experience these, we often feel the need to “fix” them.

Have you ever found yourself wondering, “What would it be like to have no problems?” Imagine the stress in that world! Think this through… having problems or challenges actually enables you to develop creative solutions. And once you’ve solved a problem, you feel a sense of fulfillment. Right? If you had no challenges, boredom would set in and boredom can be seriously stressful.

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There are lessons in predicaments, pain and inconvenience. They actually describe for us a way of being. Our work can be done from the perspective that life’s challenges teach us and we grow through the opportunities of problems. As difficult as they may be, they do make life interesting. (And yes, “interesting” may not be the ideal descriptor).

In my observations, most people feel that when their life is filled with resistance, obstacles and challenges, it’s because they are doing something wrong. To an earlier reference, we launch in “fixer” mode. We ask ourselves, “What do I need to do to get rid of this?” or “How can I fix this problem so it goes away?”

When things don’t go our way, we get upset, sometimes angry. And stressed.

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Here are two thoughts; perhaps you’ve considered them: 1) Simply focus on the things that really matter and; 2) The solutions to the problems you face are already within you. You only need to bring your energy and attention to them.

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As you encounter life’s predicaments here are three ways in which to ease their acceptance:

  1. Respond with a positive attitude. Challenges often have two participants: a victor and a victim. Victor’s mentally prepare, using tools to boost their confidence and positively rise above the pain or challenge. Victims frequently choose to accept the status quo.
  2. Promote patience. When confronted with a challenge, permit the circumstances to fully reveal before making judgments. Allowing time to pass can help to facilitate change. Make use of available techniques (prayer, meditation, contemplation) to learn the virtues of patience and endurance.
  3. Banish self-pity. Yes, people still have pity parties. And if that’s where one chooses to spend time, so be it. Be watchful though for the “It’s not fair” or “Why me?” statements when things are challenging. Those reactions can reflect an attitude of entitlement. Be open to accepting these situations as gifts rather than suffering.

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Living Measurably Better

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“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~ Doug Larson

This past May I heard Rudy Maxa speak at a professional gathering. Maxa is a renown travel journalist who has hosted many widely syndicated travel shows in the U.S. and overseas. He shared (and enlightened those present with) his knowledge of and experiences with Blue Zones.

In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better. In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the U.S.

After identifying the world’s Blue Zones, teams of scientists were dispatched to each location to identify lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity. They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zone residents shared nine specific characteristics, called the Power of 9 ®.

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I know some of you might be thinking: I don’t want to live longer. And that’s understandable. But what about living better? What if you’re wondering where to go on your next holiday/vacation? Perhaps you’re itching for something new to do and you’re curious about building a Blue Zone in your business or community. Or maybe you’re contented with your current lifestyle yet interested in learning more about ‘how do these people do it?’

The five Blue Zones are located in Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan and; Nicoya, Costa Rica.

"Hara hachi bu"

“Hara hachi bu”

Blue Zones has created a validated tool called Vitality Compass, an accurate life estimator. You might want to try it. It’s not one of those unscientific quizzes that abound on the Internet. It also provides recommendations to help you live longer.

Following are five (Power of 9) evidence-based common denominators among all five locations. To me they are not surprising, only to the extent that people outside Blue Zones don’t take the time to consider or weave them into their lifestyle. 🙂

  1. 5762508115_db482cd924_mRight Tribe. The world’s longest lived-people choose – or were born into – social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created “moais” – groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.
  2. Wine @ 5. People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food.
  3. 80% Rule. “Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawan, 2,500 year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more for the rest of the day.
  4. Down Shift. Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.
  5. Move Naturally. These people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house or yard work.

Inconvenienced, So?

2084496457_ae3580dfdd_m“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” ~ Robert Fulghum

A friend shared today that McDonald’s intends to “allure a new generation of teens and 20-somethings currently obsessed with Chipotle burritos and salad bowls with the company’s affordable coffee, new lower-calorie menu, and convenience check-out changes.” And I found myself wondering… they still don’t get it.

Yet convenience sells. People love easy. And comfortable. Can you imagine trying to sell something that inconvenienced people? Even if the benefits of that inconvenience were guaranteed? Why do you think the majority of people don’t follow through with their exercise program? It’s inconvenient.

What effect will all this efficiency, speed, ease, comfort and convenience have on us as a collective people over the long-term? How will it affect our ability to deal with real adversity and problems? How can we become a powerful, adaptable and resilient species when our default setting is locked on easy?

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When we consider convenient versus inconvenient, some minds might conjure:

  • Driving when you could take a bus, train, bicycle or walk
  • Voluntarily recycling
  • Ending difficult relationships
  • Being selfish contrasted with giving freely
  • Rejecting life-giving organs from random/unknown donors
  • Choosing fast food rather than healthy/nutritious choices
  • Coping with last minute venue changes
  • Lying versus telling the truth

Sometimes we make plans and find them thwarted at every turn. We ride against the wind for a while, and then we complain and look around for someone to blame. Being inconvenienced is about how we deal with, embrace, and learn from things we can’t control; those outside forces that often blind side and force us to change. It also factors into how we handle stressful situations.

3125636743_01c7fe348b_mLife happens because it is existing. Just as our cells divide without our influence, so to do circumstances that inconvenience. Inconvenience has no motivation to know you or influence you in any way. It simply is. And when it presents, you can address it in many ways. Here are three for your consideration:

  1. Avoid always doing “me” things. These are activities that people desire to do on their spare time by themselves; sleeping in later, taking a walk by themselves, or reading a book in a quiet place. Instead, agree to an outing with friends even if it inconveniences you. Your time and company might just be what someone needs.
  2. In a similar vein, experience an Inconvenience Yourself Day. If you have to put someone else before you, how did that make you feel? Were you satisfied or unhappy with the result? Try to adapt and practice this often and see if it comes back to you.
  3. When inconvenience strikes, the behavior of others is a tempting target for resentment. One’s annoyance seems justified and self-absolving. Refusing to understand and own your reaction to being inconvenienced is simply shirking a personal responsibility. Why not simply chill and reflect on what just happened?

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That Time of Year

9466455337_8c3cfda7ae_m“Wellness is a connection of paths: knowledge and action.” ~ Joshua Welch

Though she lives 1,800 miles (2,900 km) to the East, I talk with my Mom every Sunday. At 83, she is blessed with a sound mind and able body. She lives independently with a healthy dose of pride. And soon, in one of our conversations, she’ll ask: Did you get a flu shot? What can I say, she’s a Mom; a wise one.

We in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into that time of year: winter, the solstice, an extended holiday period, the annual cold and flu season… and whatever else typically accompanies days of shorter daylight. In the spirit of awareness and your personal wellness, are you preparing for the coming months?

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Yes, we get colds and we try to avoid the flu. But there are other seasonal risks. It seems unfair, but if you’re prone to summer allergies, chances are you’re susceptible to them in winter too. Why? Because those warm weather irritants are around all year, like pet dander, mold and mildew. When you settle indoors for chillier weather – the windows closed, the heater on – your exposure to the same allergens heightens.

Research also shows that the incidence of heart attacks spike during the holiday period. In combination, overeating, overdoing alcoholic consumption, being too sedentary, and even the stress of the season can trigger heart attacks. Yet how many people plow, unwittingly, into the vacuum that this time of year can be?

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Some people plan for the challenges that accompany this time of year. They consciously prepare. Not that preparation can cover everything that presents, but it can provide some insulation from endless marketing, external stimuli, bacteria, and things that can threaten our wellness. Getting a flu shot is simply one of those preparations.

There are countless other considerations. You likely have practices that work well for you. If you are looking for some simple ideas to help prepare for and get you through the next few months, here are three suggestions:

  1. Slow down. Intentionally. We all have so much to do and so little time in which to do it. And you want me to slow down? 🙂 Who has time for that? Rephrase the question: who doesn’t have time for that? The answer: our bodies. If you squeeze every second out of every day at record speed, your flesh, bones, muscles, and organs will eventually suffer. A serene mind really is nothing without a healthy body to carry it.
  2. Rethink your commitments. Ask: Are you committed to something because of genuine compassion or interest rather than a sense of obligation? Continuing to give your time and energy when your heart isn’t truly engaged often does you and others a disservice. Think fulfilling your own needs while connecting with and helping others.
  3. Highlight health and feeling well. Focus on the way being healthy makes you feel and what it gives you. Feed your body nourishing food so you feel your best, and remove the worries about dis-ease and poor health.

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To our Southern Hemisphere friends, here’s wishing you a refreshing spring and summer.

More Meaningful Interactions

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“You can’t upload love, you can’t download time, you can’t Google all of life’s answers. You must actually live some of your life.” ~ author attributions vary

A recent TIME mobility survey polled 5,000 people and found that 84% of participants couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device, with 25% admitting that they checked their phones every 30 minutes. With so many ways to check in and let the world know exactly what you’re doing and when, many feel pressured to maintain their online identity, tweeting, and over-communicating around the clock.

That’s not all bad, but it’s not all good, either. More and more, many people live under the expectation of constant connection. The digital age brings with it many blessings, especially in terms of ready information and immediately accessible research. We know issues, developments and stories instantly, promptly communicate them to friends and colleagues, and get instant feedback. Some ask, is this critically important?

How often do we find ourselves reading or posting to social media instead of socializing with family and friends — or tweeting life as observers rather than living it? Is there balance? Does there need to be balance?

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There is a technology backlash that has been gaining momentum over the past few years. The idea? Unplug yourself and reconnect with an analog way of life. Oddly, the epicenter of this movement is the San Francisco Bay Area, also home to the tech-saturated Silicon Valley. Why? Because people are finding that being digitally tethered distracts them from more meaningful interactions.

At the heart of this movement is getting back to a purer way of living: rediscovering hobbies, using one’s hands, getting outdoors, and having conversations that aren’t mediated by bits and bytes.

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Here’s an ironic observation: All of our devices have rechargeable batteries and in order to recharge, they all need to be plugged in. Unlike our rechargeable toys, we often need to unplug — in order to recharge.

If you’re someone who wants to unplug or not always be “on,” these three ideas may help to shift your digital device dependency. Who knows, they may even yield less stress.

  1. Use technology to master technology. Block your email or Internet access so you’re not tempted. As an example, Apple users can use the program “Freedom” to disable networking from their computer. That way, they can concentrate on what they need to get done, and can only get online by going through the hassle of rebooting.
  2. Find something better to do. It’s natural to flip through your Facebook news feed or channel surf when there’s seemingly nothing better to do. To mitigate these sessions, create other options. Craft a list of hobbies or activities that you really like, then choose one of those alternatives instead. Bake, read a book, draw, play basketball.
  3. Set limits. Consider “lobotomizing” your smartphone by killing your data plan, which means you can only access the Internet through WiFi and not at every red light. Then, when you’re sitting at a railroad crossing, instead of being on your phone, look at the graffiti on the boxcars going by. Would that be so bad?

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Comfort Food Cravings

“If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution.” ~ Author Unknown

At one time or another, most of us have had food cravings. And often, the preferred choice is “comfort food.” When people eat, they frequently feel better. Yet there’s a big difference between tapping into a food’s inherently calming properties and using food as an emotional anesthesia. That kind of eating may buy you a temporary sense of calm, but it’s usually a quick fix that wears off fast. And where does it often leave people?

Comfort foods work on a purely, and usually deliciously, psychological level. Eating comfort foods from our past works by rekindling happy memories of those times. The same holds true for food that reminds us of someone we loved. Different comfort foods can appeal to different genders. A Cornell University study discovered that women prefer sweet foods such as ice cream, but men go for savory items like soups and steak.

While comfort food may make us feel good at the moment, and may indeed be delicious, psychiatrist Robert Gould suggests that people tend to eat based upon emotion and don’t understand why they think they’re hungry. Think about that. Gould thinks people should ask themselves why they crave a particular food before they eat it and to assess honestly whether or not they are really hungry in a clinical sense. The study also found that men tend to use comfort foods as a reward, while women often feel guilty after indulging.

Regular comfort eating as a response to stress — especially chronic stress — is considered an unhealthy behavior akin to smoking cigarettes. Why? Because comfort foods are often low on nutrition. One 2007 study found that when given both grapes and hot buttered, salty popcorn to eat while watching a sad movie, participants ate far more popcorn.

While foods that produce physical happiness affect our physiology, comfort foods provide happiness on a psychological level. When you’re down in the dumps, however, you probably won’t care about the distinction, as long as you feel better.

People often conflate happiness with comfort. In the case of comfort food, people may be misusing food to soothe themselves to unhealthy results.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement and believe your food cravings may not be in your better, long-term health interests, here are three ways to rethink food cravings and defaults to comfort food:

  1. Experiment to find new favorites. Consider the possibility that you haven’t yet found your favorite comfort food. Think about choices you never would have thought of years ago. You’re never done learning how to savor nutritious food in new ways.
  2. Wait. If you’re really craving some comfort food, try waiting 15 minutes before you reach for the chips. It will give you time to evaluate whether you really want it and the craving may subside.
  3. Find a new comfort. If you’re eating because you’re bored find another way to amuse yourself so you’re not always reaching for food. Try going for a swim, or even a walk. Exercise is a natural mood enhancer. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, try short bursts of any type of activity.

Me… Stressed??

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~ Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

This past Sunday we experienced what meteorologists call a “100 year rain event.” Put simply, it means we got slammed. I live in the desert and when rains of this magnitude fall, it is impossible for the arid land to absorb so much water in such a compressed period of time. It yields massive flooding and it literally sweeps away what you would never imagine being uprooted and moved.

It’s unnerving to watch portions of your property wash down an arroyo. It’s frustrating when years of manual labor and xeriscaping simply vanishes. It’s been a physically and emotionally draining week.

Wednesday evening, exhausted, I finally created time to put what had happened into perspective. I looked at Bailey and Logan (my canine companions) and started to laugh, at them and myself! After days of massive cleaning up, where neighbors slogged and rallied to support each other, I realized that it was just earth and rocks and trees and railroad ties. And how important are they? 🙂

My focus shifted to how fortunate we were. In the bigger global picture, I’m still abundantly blessed. There was no loss of life, the interior of the house was undamaged, electricity was eventually restored and life will go on. Me… stressed? Perhaps then. Me… grateful? Absolutely now.

Before

Before. Peaceful. Prethreatened.

After. It's worse than it looks.

After. It’s worse than it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there take-aways? Sure there are.

1) I found my way back to positive thinking which, in this case, meant that I approached unpleasantness in a positive and productive way. I changed my self-talk to align with the best is going to happen, not the worst. I (eventually) paused and chose to cope, thus mitigating the harmful effects of stress.

2) When I got around to laughing, I was focused on Bailey and Logan. Many are unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that accompany time shared with pets. They’re mood enhancers! Studies have shown that pets lower blood pressure in stressful situations and it doesn’t have to be a cat or a dog. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension.

3) I realized I still possessed what mattered; family, health and friends. Researchers from The Australian Longitudinal Study on Aging looked at 1,500 men and women for a full decade. Among their findings was that having good friends is more likely to increase health and longevity than even close relationships with other family members. The researchers speculate that the emotional support friends provide one another during difficult times, contributes stress reduction benefits as a result of feeling connected to other people.

Rituals, Routines and Ruts

“In the beginning man makes the habit. In the end, the habit makes the man.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This post started simple. I was going to write about some pros and cons of routines. As I filtered thoughts, I found myself meandering around routines, habits, rituals, ruts and behaviors. Granted they’re not mutually exclusive but I wanted to find my way back to something more focused. So work with me as I try to ‘tighten’ this message.

There may not be much difference between a routine and a habit. A habit typically refers to a constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition. They can be good, bad or indifferent. Create a habit and it becomes part of your routine. A routine suggests ordinariness, even a lack of thought; to be on autopilot. But routines also involve choice for taking advantage of a range of things such as time, willpower, discipline, and optimism.

It’s helpful to have order and discipline in our lives. Creating good habits and useful routines helps us feel productive and directed. Yet, sometimes, routines turn into ruts without our realizing it. We can find ourselves feeling trapped, bored, and boring without understanding why. Enter stress; obviously unwanted and unneeded. When we feel relied upon to perform tasks we’ve grown to resent, or simply to do things the way we always have, that sense of duty can sap our energy and enthusiasm.

On another hand, a ritual usually refers to religious meaning or a solemn ceremony. But rituals are not always simply a means to an end. They can be rational, extremely effective and deeply valuable on their own. For example, think of rituals performed after experiencing losses that alleviate grief or rituals performed before high-pressure tasks to reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. They can also be as simple (and superstitious) as eating certain foods or ‘crossing ones fingers’ for good luck.

Rituals (and most of us have them) can have a casual impact on your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If you’re wondering how you might add to or restore some focus to your rituals or routines, here are three possible actions:

  1. Acknowledge your top three. Every morning, ask yourself, “What are the top three most important tasks that I will complete today?” Prioritize your day accordingly and don’t retire at night until the top three are complete.
  2. Align meaning with what matters. Often, rituals are the things we care most about. If you value nature, consider a tree-planting ritual by performing mindful and valued steps that allow you to celebrate nature. Whatever rituals you create, remember to include significant and repeatable steps.
  3. Craft an “Ignore list.” Most people have a to-do list but it may help to ask yourself: “What’s not worth doing?” Write down what you’re willing to disregard – emails you have no intention of responding to, vacuuming, or exercising more regularly. Review the list occasionally to ensure that nothing on it is getting your undeserved attention. (But think twice about the exercising.) 🙂

As Time Goes By

“As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft.” ~ H. L. Mencken

This title comes from Dr. Glenn Miya, who was featured in a mid-December post titled, “Why Wait?” Dr. Glenn uses the expression “As time goes by” with his chronologically gifted patients who prefer it to “aging.” On today’s Awakening to Awareness radio show, Carol McManus talked about social media and its use/value to the boomer generation. And a couple of weeks ago I wrote about The Joys of Living Beyond 50, a post that generated some thoughtful feedback.

Acknowledging these contributing factors, I’m going again with the “as time goes by” theme… sharing three additional awareness opportunities for those having achieved the half-century mark (source: purpleclover.com).

  • Opening that jar or stuck window will take more oomph. With muscle mass on a natural downward slope, it follows that simple everyday activities might suddenly stop you in your track. However, recent studies show promising signs that these muscle changes may be stoppable. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh found that staying active throughout life leads to only minor drop-offs in muscle strength. They’re not sure if similar benefits will result by taking up exercise mid-life, or if the type of exercise matters. Bottom line: Start or keep on exercising!

  • Cavities will start to be a concern again. Like your hair and your skin, your tooth enamel (the protective layer) is thinning out and breaking down, exposing your teeth to more bacteria. What to do? Don’t put off your twice-yearly dental cleanings and ask your dentist for dental sealants which are protective coatings that guard against decay.
  • Your legs won’t keep up with your will (or need) for speed. When people told you that life would slow down as time goes by, perhaps what they really meant to warn you about was the fact that you’ll literally become a slow poke. Here, it’s not your legs that are the problem, it’s the signals your brain is sending to your muscles. This change actually begins around age 40, when the brain cells that shoot motor-control commands to muscles started to slide. So? Vary your workouts but also toss in some mental training. In 2008, neurologists at UCLA found that giving brains their own workout could prompt repair cells to kick into gear. Try memorization activities, taking music or language lessons, or playing computer games.

If you’re serious about your continued wellness, here are three additional considerations:

  1. Investigate your family history. In your 50’s, it’s time to look at your family tree to learn if your genetics increase your risks for diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Understand that history. Get a colonoscopy or a calcium test to help determine whether your arteries are starting to harden, and if you need lifestyle changes. It can’t be just worrying about everybody else.
  2. Check your hostility. Anger often seems connected to a variety of health problems. When people indulge their anger, their heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones increase and stress the body. These people tend to display more depression, dissatisfaction with life, have fewer social connections, and use more unhealthy coping behaviors. Find healthier ways to cope, or change your job, relationships or attitude in some way to retain some balance.
  3. Enjoy the grape. Red wine has a powerful anti-aging compound in it known as resveratrol. Though it is unlikely that the dosage of resveratrol in red wine is high enough to impact lifespan, drinking alcohol in moderation is also associated with decreased risk of heart disease and other vascular problems. My own cardiologist confirms this. 🙂

Valuable Gifts in Fur

                                 Bailey & Logan

Bailey & Logan

“Dogs are not our whole life but they make our lives whole.” ~ Roger Caras

Rescues Bailey and Logan are integral to my life. As my current companions and with other Labs before them, their presence has awakened me to some amazing canine awareness. For example, according to Dr. Peggy McCardle, of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “There is mounting evidence that dogs and other companion animals such as horses can promote psychological and physical health benefits in their owners.”  This is probably not surprising to many of you.

Lately, I have learned that dogs:

1) Empathize with Human Pain. As reported in livescience.com, a Goldsmiths College (London) study showed more dogs will approach someone who is crying or in distress than someone who is not. This shows that dogs are empathetic and are eager to help comfort pain in humans.

2) Reduce Work Stress. The International Journal of Workplace Management has discovered that workers who bring their dogs to the office have less stress and are happier with their jobs, simply because the dog is hanging around. Yes, working from a home office has its benefits. 🙂

3) Detect Low Blood Sugar. A Queen’s University (Belfast) study found that a dog’s sense of smell can also detect low blood sugar in diabetic humans. They are trained to alert the person that their sugar has dropped or, if a diabetic attack has already occurred, will bark incessantly in an attempt to alert somebody to come help, thus helping their owners stay healthy and saving diabetics’ lives.

4) Help Veterans Overcome PTSD. Smithsonianmag.com reports that simply by being themselves, dogs have been shown to help reduce PTSD among soldiers. In addition to providing usual canine companionship, they help sufferers come out of their shells, be less numb and angry, and improve their social life as well. I have seen this first-hand as my neighbor has been working with service dogs and vets with PTSD for over two years. It’s amazing what these dogs do with and for their humans.

5) Reduce Your Risk of Heart Problems. Researchers at Baker Medical Research Institute (Melbourne), have found that pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels across the board regardless of their smoking habits, diet, body mass index, or income level. Preliminary studies by the American Heart Association are revealing that dog owners have less risk of heart disease than those without dogs. The reasons given are the exercise that owners get when walking their dogs, plus the presence of the dog helps the owner deal with stress better.

6) Help People with Dementia Live a Better Life. Dogs have shown that they can help keep dementia sufferers on schedule, reminding them when it’s time for medicine and when to see the doctor. When owners experience frustration over the state of their mind, the “dementia dog” is right there to support and remind them that someone is always there for them.

As we continue to age (or as my friend Dr. Glenn Miya prefers, “As time passes by”), you may want to consider a dog as more than just a loyal companion. Unconditionally giving and loving, s/he could become your new furry doctor… and they will certainly bring you more joy than a fox, mink or sable.