Humans and hounds have developed bonds for over a thousand years. From the wolf first coming into ancient dwellings seeking warmth, and assisting in hunting for food, to modern day mutual companionship.
A popular stereotypical idea within western culture is that a black cat is often associated with a witch. Within Wiccan belief a familiar is a close animal companion, offering support and understanding and being attuned with the human which can be in the form of any animal. Animals have been incorporated within the lives of humans as pets, often becoming part of the family, and generally known as man’s best friend.
The Oxytocin factor
Throughout history, humans and what we now commonly know as pets have had a mutually beneficial relationship.
In 1980 a study performed by a team of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found human – animal contact useful in reducing stress.
In a (BBC) Horizon documentary (2009-2010) titled “The secret life of the dog” Professor Uvnas-Moberg researched Oxytocin in relation to dogs. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone made up of 9 amino acids produced in a part of the brain called Hypothalamus. Oxytocin becomes present in new mothers nursing a baby, and aids the parent/child bond. During her research professor Uvnas-Moberg took blood samples from dogs and owners, and results displayed an increased level of Oxytocin from both during displays of affection.
Stress is a response to environmental demands and pressures, and whilst a degree of stress can be common place when there are changes in social or physical environments, it can also arise from positive or negative experiences. However, excessive prolonged stress can be hugely impacting on an individual’s emotional, social, and physical well-being.
Oxytocin is released by stimulation of senses such as smell, as well as by certain types of sound and light, psychological mechanisms can also promote the release. This means that positive interaction involving touch may be health-promoting.
When pets share homes and lives with humans, the increased levels of Oxytocin that occur have a physiological effect, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, thus reducing stress, and stress related illnesses.
Natural increases in Oxytocin is one way of assisting stress reduction, however there are other methods that can be beneficial. Talking therapies, such as counselling can help get to the root of stress triggers. By finding a greater understanding and increasing awareness can be a very powerful tool in discovering ways to manage tension and challenges, within a secure environment.
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Therapists who work with: Stress.