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Why dogs help us lead happier, healthier and longer lives : Some obvious and some not so obvious benefits. Part 2

Disclaimer: One thing I forgot to mention in the first part of this article is that this is not intended as medical advice, nor is it presented as fact, nor is it unbiased, in fact, its written from a place of huge bias, my opinion and a lot of love. I love dogs and these are some more of the reasons I believe we are all better together.

Earlier this week we discussed the manifold joys and benefits of dog ownership and how it can help us lead happier and healthier lives. This is a continuation of that celebration but before we dive right in, let’s briefly recap what we have covered so far.

We now know that sharing your life with a dog can benefit the both of you through:

· Activity and its ensuing bonuses, namely cardiovascular health, strengthening your joints, maintaining mobility and improving your lymphatic drainage. The latter helps you detoxify.

· You also enjoy the benefits of increased daylight exposure at varying times of the day. This is critical for hormone health and also for regulating your circadian rhythm.

· Still want more? Ok, so there’s also the effect that stroking your pet has on your nervous system which helps flick you into the “parasympathetic mode” or “rest and repair”. This has a potentially huge impact on your longevity.

Without going too far into the textbook on parasympathetic I do think it important to explain a little further on this topic as it will help us understand a point we are going to cover later.

As we have already mentioned, from a nervous system perspective you have two states, sympathetic and parasympathetic. You are in either one or the other. Either can be in varying degrees, for example, “extremely relaxed” or “just mildly relaxed”. Or less positively extremely “stressed” or “background stress”. You cannot be both. That is to say, you cannot be para and sympa. It’s A or B.

Due to various factors too many to cover comprehensively here, humans now spend much more of their lives in the “sympathetic stress” more than we have evolved to be able to deal with, healthily.

Cavemen didn’t have so many mortgage woes, they had a “fend off the woolly mammoth” setting, (although I hear on the primal grapevine mammoths where real pussycats and just wanted some love) and a “sit around the campfire eating roasted meat, romantically ogling Ooofta across the dancing flamelight” mode. Both have their time and place and both play important roles in our survival and thrival. And yes, reproduction. Oh, Ooofta.

How dogs make you happyHowever, and this is the critical part, we were never meant to stick in one particular mode. Whilst “sympathetic setting” will save our lives in the short term, the hormones it releases to stimulate our survival actually wreak havoc on our own bodies if they stick around for too long. Think Miley on a wrecking ball. The whole house gets affected. Badly. Or better still, imagine the turbo rocket boost on K.I.T.T from Nightrider. Those rockets are supposed to fire in an emergency only. If they are constantly running the car will blow up. Our exposure to artificial light, crackers working hours, noise, pollution, social media, antisocial media, commuting, financial planning or lack thereof, lack of natural foods..and so on and so… bore off…..means that we are now generally tipped over (as a race) into sympathetic nervous dominance. Those rockets are constantly firing, even when they should be sleeping.

This can lead to chronic stress and therefore chronic disease. Yes. Stress is the root cause of all disease. Whichever form that stress manifests itself in.

SO cutting straight to the very positive news that I am delighted to share with you, is yes, I believe your dog is the antidote to modern life’s stressors. Because, every time you pet that dog and think how wonderful it is, you flick yourself out of that destructive setting where stress hormones can damage your own body. You sublimely slide into rest and repair halting the “imaginary emergency” hormone cascade in its steps.

Petting your pet puts you into parasympathetic. Say that seven times after a strong gin. In fact, the first person to successfully post a video of themselves saying this whilst patting their own head and rubbing their pet’s stomach counter clockwise will receive a prize. And global acclaim.

Onto the next point. One of the key ingredients of human longevity discussed in National Geographic http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0511/feature1/ all those years ago is “a sense of community”. And one of the major notable differences I have witnessed since the arrival of the awesome waterdog puppy Kismet is just how many people want to stop and talk to you, introduce themselves, fuss the dog and find out more about her. She breaks the social ice. I now know more people in my newly adopted hometown of Tarifa, in the last 2 weeks than I met in the last 5 months. And Tarifa is already a very friendly, very welcoming place. Maybe that’s why there are so many dogs.

As importantly, and this is pure observation, the type of person who can love an animal is more often than not the type of person you want to associate with. They are generally of your tribe, kind and giving. I was dumbfounded after 20 years of London living when Bisous the Labradoodle joined our household in Putney, I suddenly found a tribe of people who wanted to speak to each other and share information, success stories, things to avoid, things to try. People to introduce you to who can help or just laugh at the dogs’ antics whilst you share a stroll on the common, watching the whole cricket club trying to recover an accidentally “fetched” cricket ball.

This is exactly what we are all creating here at Bella and Duke. A positive tribe, driven by a desire to improve our dog’s wellbeing, health and happiness. And this is why I kindly ask you to always pitch in, share your story and help others succeed. Together we are so much stronger, will evolve quicker and improve our service, product and the whole experience. Thank you in advance for being part of the pack.

So additional to being the antidote to the stressors of modern living, I put it to you ladies and gentlehounds that your dog also helps you foster a positive community by breaking the social ice. Start patting and chatting.

Now the final point on which I will end this article is “Grounding”. Grounding is an old term with a relatively new connotation of late. It refers to discharging unwanted electrical current in our bodies. I know I know this sounds esoterically science fiction. Bear with me and I will make this a painless easy win for you. Promise.

We are increasingly exposed to unwanted EMF’s (electrical magnetic frequencies) from either WIFI, mobile phones, electric power lines, you get the picture. Whilst we have evolved to be exposed to these (the earth has a giant magnetic field going through either poles), the EMFS we are now encountering are a radically different frequency. There is emerging research to show that these can have deleterious effects on our health. One of the reasons is that wait for it (and I get to use deleterious and tie up a point in one paragraph, the joy) is that they put us into that destructive state of parasympathetic nervous response. Yes, these EMFs put us into fight or flight, quite often without us even realising it. It impacts our sleep, our hormones, our overall health. The whole gamut.

One way to dissipate this is by walking outside on the grass, or earth. This helps discharge these frequencies. In summary, another benefit of walking your dog is you are discharging unwanted frequencies into the earth. All the more so if you take a couple of moments at the end of your walk to walk around barefoot (weather and surface permitting). There are even a growing number of people using this method to help themselves recover from jetlag quicker and TESLA have developed a device to disrupt these frequencies to protect people’s health. You can circumnavigate the need for this with 3 simple steps. Walk your dog, slip off your shoes at the end of the walk and enjoy the grass between your toes, and switch off your wifi at night.

About me

“Rowan is the founding partner of The Modern Sensei, a Functional Health and Medicine Clinic that focuses on getting to the root cause of illness. Because its time to start leading better lives. After a long journey back to health himself, Rowan studied in Nutrition, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition and Functional medicine so that he can help others in their journey”


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