Animal Therapy – The therapy extending beyond four walls

Animals, Mental Health

Today I want to talk about a kind of therapy that is more than sitting in a room with a trained therapist. Animal therapy. As with each day that comes I am learning more about the benefits and uses of animals in people’s daily lives and individual roads to recovery from various issues, meaning I am very keen to give others an insight into why animals are becoming increasingly popular in healing.

What is animal assisted therapy?

Definition: Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning

Therapy animals are often seen as Dogs, which is wonderful since they assist so many people in need of a loving, helpful, forever companion. However, we are blessed to have with us so many wonderful and unique animal species who also deserve recognition for the roles they play in our lives as companions, helpers and life-long friends.

With animals in therapy, there isn’t that added pressure of worrying over causing upset to the other person with certain things have been expressed. In therapy I always find myself struggling to string a sentence together, let alone trying to get it out of my mouth. I have never liked the idea of communication in case speaking about my bad times makes the person listening feel equally as bad. But with animals it flows naturally and it feels way more comfortable due to the lack of awkwardness and the increase in calmness.

Animals bring out the best in us without special training. Just simply by being themselves.

A key factor highlighting the positive attributes as having animals as therapy is that you are under no obligation to communicate with them if you choose not to, but you are still aware that the animals are there to listen and to be the friend you need to pick you up when you’ve fallen. Even without speaking, which can be tough for many people, animals can easily pick up on high levels of stress and anxiety, which Humans struggle to detect without the physical signs and symptoms – such as crying. Animals are excellent at detecting mental signs of distress, not just physical ones. They will quickly do all in their power to alleviate that by nudging you for attention or sitting with you to prevent you from dwelling on your thoughts and feelings alone.

Talking therapies have always proven tough for me since I struggle to verbally talk about my thoughts and feelings due to judgement and fear. But with animals, there is none of that, there is no worry or fear of judgement or abandonment. Whenever I am surrounded with the Goats, my problems are no longer swimming around my mind or bothering me as much for me to feel the need to express them anyway. I don’t have the time for my thoughts to linger when I have a responsibility to care for, and play with, the Goats. 

‘Animals make all the bad things go away’.

I am one of many people worldwide who personally experiences animal therapy. I’m not talking about an assistance Dog. Many people experience animal therapy from friends with fur to friends with scales, or even spines. There is no limit in which animals can be used for animal therapy. But today, I’m talking about Goats. Goats for me have acted as a form of therapy, alongside being the best friends imaginable. Excellent listeners who give the best hugs and provide the best happy distraction, aswell as endless love and affection.

With animals I don’t have to sit and figure out how I will express myself, it just naturally happen whenever I am in their presence.

It’s time we moved on from using Goats for meat and dairy and instead focused on their values, providing them with the happiness, love and freedom they deserve. Goats are the honorable, trustworthy and kind hearted companions we all need in our lives.

My wonderful friend Lainey Morse the founder of Goat Yoga and my fellow crazy goat lady is one of many people using animal therapy as a means of adding happiness into other’s lives. Lainey has experienced the healing properties her Goats possess, meaning it has proven to be very beneficial in her recovery from mental illnesses. Goats entered Lainey’s life and have aided her, not only mentally, but also in her heart and soul too as she continues to inspire many (myself included) with her continued bravery and strength each day. Additionally, Lainey’s yoga classes have grown to be a worldwide phenomenon which were created with the idea of Goat Therapy and compassion. Though it doesn’t cure people’s issues, it aims to give people a happy/calming distraction from their every day issues, worries and stress. And, unsurprisingly, people LOVE IT! Because it’s impossible not to be filled with joy and contentment when surrounded with such cheerful and jolly Goats!

To gain an insight into Goat Yoga in a greater depth, please visit: http://www.goatyoga.net.

There are lots of amazing properties about Goats that many people have yet to recognise. Goats have gentle souls, they are highly intelligent animals, cheeky and inquisitive, sharing many known characteristics and personality traits with Dogs, a “man’s best friend”. Meaning they are very easy to bond with and are always down for cuddles and affection, an instant mood booster and anxiety reliever.

I feel that with Goats, I am never alone. Being welcomed with their presence is always a huge heart warmer and when being around them it’s as if my problems have magically vanished, appearing vacant and less heavy in my head. As soon as I see a Goat, that is it! I am quickly drawn to them and fail to take my eyes off their playful behaviours. Goats bring out the best in me and enable me to temporarily forget about the other issues in my life, a key property in the art of therapy. Providing me with senses of worth and importance, common factors that are easily forgotten during times of mental distress. My darkest thoughts quickly begin to focus on the wonderful animals I am surrounded with, seeing them getting on with their daily lives without a care or fuss in The World proves to me that a life without worry is possible.

Our animal friends teach us many life lessons that I highly value and treasure close to my heart. I am confident that with the continued help of my animal friends, anything is possible, and I will continue on my journey towards happiness and self-love to aid me in my career pathway of saving animals in the future, just like my inspiration Lainey Morse.

In the photos below, you will view animal therapy occurring with the presence of Goats. Judging from my expression in each individual image, I am feeling very happy and content with the help of my four-legged friends. 

Would you look at these images and see somebody suffering with complex mental health illnesses? Goats don’t only mask my feelings on the outside, but also on the inside too.

 

 

My life lessons from animals – Pawprints to recovery

Mental Health

If we as Humans treated animals the way we treated ourselves, we would be in serious trouble for animal cruelty and neglect. An eye opener in the fact that we can all learn to practice self care and kindness towards ourselves. Self care isn’t selfish. Lets take a leaf from an animals’ book.

Treat yourself how you would treat an animal – with love, care and respect.

My current struggles with Anorexia Nervosa are a daily struggle but I am thankful since it has helped to widen my eyes into the life lessons we can learn from animals, ranging from the importance of happiness and self care amongst other things that we can all learn to apply to ourselves and our difficulties. Being a passionate animal lover and enthusiast from a very young age has been a blessing and I am privileged to say that animals own a huge quantity (if not all) of my heart. I have learned more from animals than I have ever learned in Therapy, because after-all, “the best therapist has fur and four legs.” My passion for animals has encouraged me to keep fighting and has allowed me to have a constant reminder of my purpose in life. Most importantly, it has also given me reasons as to how and why I must achieve this.

Animals come in all shapes and sizes, yet we love them all the same. We wouldn’t love a Dog any less for being bigger than a different breed. We wouldn’t sit and criticise a Cow over their size or their weight, nor would we compare them to a Mouse. Instead we appreciate them for their individual characteristics and their loving personalities. Heck, we love animals carrying that extra bit of weight because they are cuddly and certainly nothing negative in our eyes.

My new rule in life – If I can’t fight for myself, I MUST fight for the animals in need of my love, friendship and compassion. Being faced with Anorexia includes me struggling to find the motivation to do things for myself, but keeping the animals in mind has helped me massively (and continues to do so!)

I have recently given myself the opportunity to view my thoughts and feelings in a different perspective, a brighter light. I have experienced years of the same, foggy mindset and I have begun to see a little bit of light peeping through the darkness. Though I cannot say my mindset has magically shifted, I can confidently say that I am feeling an ounce of positivity that has remained vacant for such a long period of time. Comparing my struggles to animals is something I recommend everybody with mental illnesses has a shot at. I find it comforting to eat alongside my Cat and my Rabbit whilst at home and it aids as a massive anxiety reliever, especially since I struggle massively eating with my family and friends. It really gives a wonderful, realistic insight into the importance and benefits of different things. I discovered that I am feeding my pets breakfast whilst finding the motivation through lots of tears to finish mine. Feeding animals is my norm, so perhaps someday feeding myself will be the norm too.

Evidently, I would never starve an animal or deprive them or the essentials they need, so why should I engage in these behaviours?

Examples:

1) When I fail to understand and priorotise eating and it’s importance, I am quick to remember how much animals love and enjoy food. Emphasising the fact that they aren’t ones to give a thought to calories or guilt. They eat to provide them with the energy they need to fulfill their energetic lives and to add to their charming personalities. My admiration for Goats has assisted me in many ways, including finding the importance of food.

2) When I am feeling ‘too big and too fat’ and uncomfortable in my body, I divert my thoughts to Elephants. Elephants are the heaviest Mammal in The World, yet I have never seen one dieting or reducing their calories. Why? Because it is unimportant and it certainly won’t bring them as much happiness as browsing and wandering around with their herd will.

3) If an animal was underweight or refusing to eat, it would raise concerns in us and would result in an immediate trip to the Vets to resolve the underlying issue. Why shouldn’t this be the same with us Humans? Animals are living proof and a constant reminder of how we must strive for health and happiness as opposed to giving into our illnesses.

4) Do Cheetahs sit and dwell on the fact that they may well have consumed more calories than another animal? No. Because they are the World’s fastest land mammal which wouldn’t be possible without eating and that remains the most important factor, not the food they have consumed.

Above I have mentioned just a few examples of how animals continue to help me through each day and I am confident that with each day I will grow in strength and knowledge as I continue in my recovery journey towards happiness and self-love and to thrive as an individual. I believe that if we all take into account animals and the way they treat themselves, we will receive nothing but benefits from it in return. Animals help me in so many positive ways which I am forever thankful for and someday I am going to repay them by giving them the lives filled with freedom they deserve.

‘Be like a Giraffe and stand tall’

Body Dysmorphia – A silent battle, a real war

Mental Health

Good Evening lovely people, I hope your weekends are going well so far.

As an Anorexia sufferer, I also suffer with BDD (which is body dysmorphic disorder.) A description being: “An anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.” However, I must add that you do NOT have to be suffering from an eating disorder in order to have this condition. Also, you can suffer at any age, you can be any gender or any race prior to beliefs of this being a ‘girl’s condition.’

Body dysmorphia is a silent, real battle that not many people are aware of meaning it often gets mistaken for ‘attention seeking.’ However, a person with BDD (male or female) will see their body differently to how others see it. For example, a person with Anorexia may view themselves as ‘fat and obese’ when they are actually the opposite. When a person with this condition sees something, it becomes very difficult and almost impossible to change that thought process. Telling somebody with BDD that they are not fat, or that their nose isn’t too big will NOT change their thoughts and feelings surrounding this.

“A psychological disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with imaginary detects in their appearance.”

Symptoms of BDD: poor body image, low self-esteem, worrying excessively about appearance, developing compulsive behaviours to deal with worries, excessive body checking, frequent weighing, self harming and comparing ones self to others. (These are just a select few symptoms.)

Causes of BDD: Eating disorders, depression, anxiety, bullying, trauma, genes and the environment.

Describing body dysmorphia would be like telling somebody to look at the red curtains, when the curtains are quite clearly green. Both people see different things and neither can see what the other person does, no matter how much convincing is done. Similarly, no matter how much you tell a person with BDD that their thoughts aren’t true, it’ll just go over their head and they will continue to believe what they’ve already believed for such a long time. It’s like a mouse staring into a mirror and seeing an Elephant staring back. Although the facts highlight the fact that your visions aren’t correct, it becomes very difficult to see past it and to see and believe what the people around you do.

Most people will pick faults with their bodies and their appearances and I can safely say that I’m yet to meet one person who’s comfortable in their own skin. Self acceptance isn’t easy; it is possible and can be done with a combination of therapy and mindfulness, or so I believe. Having said this, change doesn’t happen overnight and body positivity isn’t an easy thing to achieve. I cannot speak on a person level about finding body acceptance, but hopefully I will one day. Unfortunately we live in a World where people believe their values and self worth will increase if they become a certain weight or size, if you own certain attributes or if you’ve travelled The World or not. It’s vital to remember that these things are not as important as love, health and happiness. Never put anybody down when they are on a journey to self love and acceptance.

Body dysmorphia is a real issue that people suffer from – please show love, support and understanding to those struggling. Do not become stressed if people are having a bad day or if they are seeing things that you cant. Try to change the topic from talking about bodies and appearances in order to lift the stress and focus off the individual. In addition to this, if you are struggling please speak up.

Lots of love,

Laur xxx