Can Animal Therapy Help us to Heal?

Can animal therapy help us to heal? That’s my question. Yours may be ‘why is Nutritious Lolly, a qualified nutritionist and exercise consultant writing a blog on animal therapy? I thought she was all about inch loss.’ That’s a perfectly reasonable question so here’s why.

The Nutritious Lolly 6-week Whole-Body Plan is designed to encourage you to explore good nutrition and adopt new habits for optimum health that will last a lifetime. No fad diets or short term results at the expense of long term gains. However, the term ‘whole-body’ has a wide range of connotations and can therefore cover mental wellbeing too. Now, I’m not an expert in mental health, but I do know that some activities we engage in can trigger chemical changes within our bodies that will have a positive effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. One of these activities involves being close to, and building relationships with animals.

Animal therapy – more than just a fuzzy feeling

We all know the positive and relaxing feeling we get when we stroke an animal’s fur – allergies excepted of course! But, there are more benefits to be had than just a warm, fuzzy feeling. For example, the State Hospital in Scotland has produced a document giving positive evidence for animals being included in therapy for patients with mental health issues. You can read the hospital’s findings by clicking here. There was also a recent news report about Shetland ponies visiting Havencourt care home for elderly people in Stonehaven.

Therapy ponies visit Havencourt Care Home

Animal therapy programmes have been around since the 1960’s but have gained greater exposure in recent years as we find out more about the benefits which include lower stress levels and reduced anxiety. I strongly believe in the benefits of animal therapy which is why I’m keen to support the work being done by Sunnyside Karele, a family-run, registered charity in East Lothian close to where I live.

The brilliant work of Sunnyside Karele

Sunnyside Karele promotes EFAL – Equine Facilitated Activity Learning – a range of practical activities involving horses and their environment. One of Sunnyside Karele’s programmes, called Up Close, is about building a close relationship with one of the horses. This involves building trust with the horse, learning to groom her and leading her into the school. The benefits are amazing and include reducing cortisol which causes stress, and increasing serotonin – which is found mostly in the gut. Serotonin controls our anxiety levels and can increase our feelings of happiness and wellbeing so I can’t recommend animal therapy highly enough as a welcome addition to your ‘be kind to yourself’ list.

Sunnyside Karele helps children in the local community who are disabled or disadvantaged; or people who are marginalised or socially isolated. If you live near East Lothian then pop along and see their work for yourself. If you live elsewhere, then seek out an animal therapy centre near you and pay it a visit. What’s not to like?

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