beneftis of touching an animal

Mindfulness with animals

Petting and touching an animal has many benefits and you can combine this very well with mindfulness.
You probably already know that touch has many positive effects on the animal and on you:
Happy hormones are being released, it increases trust and bonding and it relaxes.

Mindfulness exercises - petting your pet

Touching and petting is a fun and very simple way to practice mindfulness: the practice of doing daily activities with your full attention.
Not only do you increase your awareness, but it is also super nice for your animal(s) and for you!

In this article I use the words ‘pet’ and ‘animal’ interchangeably. Wherever you read ‘pet’, you can also read ‘animal’, and vice versa.

Not every animal wants to be petted.

Before you get started enthusiastically, be aware that not all animals enjoy being cuddled. Especially if they are not used to that at an early stage in their life. Then it is best to build up the touching very carefully.
It also seems to be the case that sometimes small pets such as rabbits or guinea pigs can get a lot of stress when they are petted. They sit very still, not because they like it so much, but they do not move purely out of fear.
So always pay attention to signals from your animal and always let them go if they want to leave.

Also, an animal that often wants to be cuddled can have a moment that he or she just doesn’t want to.  I would say, respect this and let them go and wait for the next time.

Positive effect of petting on your animal.

Every animal is different, but most animals enjoy petting and  contact. As I wrote before, not every animal wants to be petted, so always check this in advance.
I am convinced that if you do something with full attention and love, the other person, human or animal, will really feel that.

  • Petting is good for the relationship you have with your animal and increases trust and connection, partly because oxytocin is produced. Oxytocin is often  referred to as the ‘love hormone’, and the  ‘hug- or bonding’ hormone. This hormone is produced in both humans and animals.
  • Stroking also releases endorphins. This ensures that stress is reduced and your animal becomes relaxed.
  • To loosen stiff muscles, especially after a long walk or with older pets, you can alternate stroking with massage

Positive effects of petting your pet on you.

  • It relaxes your body through the gentle movements you make
  • It improves your breathing especially when it is shallow and fast.
  • Your mind calms down when you are busy.
  • It makes you happy. Cuddling releases the hormone oxytocin, from you. So, it does not matter whether you hug a human or an animal, in both cases this substance is released when you hug for a while.
  • During the contact you have with your pet you can examine his of her body for possible wounds, ticks, or other things.
  • Especially with a new pet or one that is anxious, you build trust and create greater connection, what will have a positive effect on you.
  • You practice to be attentive and aware,  and you increase your own consciousness.

Mindfulness practice in your daily life

Simply said, Mindfulness involves a conscious direction of our awareness. 
With mindfulness you pay attention, focused and conscious, to the present moment.
You really don’t have to meditate to practice this.
Easily you can do everyday things with your full attention.

Things you can pay attention to, when practicing mindfulness with your pet

Likely you cuddle your pet regularly. How does that go generally? Do you do this with your full attention, or is your attention often elsewhere? How long do you pet? Are you doing something else at the same time? 
Some ideas to pay attention to when you practice mindful cuddling.

  • How does your pet’s fur feel? How do the hairs feel under or through your fingers
  • How do the different parts of your pets body feel? For example, the ears are softer and warmer.
  • Is your pet calm or restless, tired or alert
  • Do you notice changes with your animal while petting?

And what about you?

  • Which part of your body is in contact with the ground or other surface.
  • What part of your body  moves when your pet? Do you notice how you shift your body weight
  • How is your breathing? And where do you feel it? In the abdomen, diaphragm or especially in the chest area?
    If your breathing is shallow, fast and high, you can make a long stroke on each breath, to make the breathing calmer and deeper.
  • Are there parts in your body that are tense and that you can relax?
  • What about your thoughts? Are you busy in your head and are you easily distracted or can you stay attentive to your petting and awareness what occurs?

Great daily exercise

The more often you do things with focus and attention, the more it becomes naturally.
That also counts for mindfulness. You will become more aware of yourself and all what is around you.   
And ultimately, this has a positive effect on you; if you are aware of something, you can change it. If you can change something, you can prevent certain things or divert them in time.

So bring in your dog, cat, rabbit, canary, cow or domestic pig and enjoy.

If you like to practice mindfulness in daily activities more, the blog exercises-in-mindfulness-drinking, could be of interest for you too. 

My two dogs and I

I have 2 dogs and they just love to be petted. And they would not mind, if I keep doing this for hours. 
It does not only calm them, I do notice the effect it has on me as well when I really take the time and pet mindfully.

In the Dutch version of this blog, I added a video, which is also in Dutch, as inspiration for petting mindful dogs. If you like to see this, go to my Dutch version Mindfulness met dieren


In the cover photo you see horse coach Sandra Jelly .

5 days of Mindful Moments

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Simple ways to practice mindfulness without sitting for long meditation. 
More information you find on the page Free Mindfulness

Hi, my name is Jolinda, and I work as a holistic health practitioner.  I provide yoga and meditation classes and massage and Reiki treatments,  mindfulness training and happiness coaching,. 
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