My dog talks!
We often hear how important it is for our health and wellbeing to have connection in our lives. We most often think this means human connection. But have you ever thought about how much benefit we gain through connecting with our pets?
Those of you who know me, and our sweet dog Charlie, know that he talks! Definitely more than the average fur child and significantly more than just greeting new arrivals at the front door, letting us know when he is ready for a meal or feels he should accompany us on an outing. He actually makes so many little sounds it’s as if he is trying to talk.
True connection = Coherence
If you’ve ever had a pet there is no doubt you can relate to the incredibly deep connection that can be formed between us and our non-human friends. Over the past few months, I have spent more time truly connecting with Charlie.
When I say truly connecting, I mean taking the time to sit on the floor with him, to look deeply into his eyes and feel our heart beats connecting. This connection can be called ‘coherence’, a state of smooth, ordered heart rhythm patterns. The feeling can be powerful and can create a sense of being grounded, calm and experiencing an overall feeling of wellbeing. I believe the same can be said for Charlie. When I talk to him and imitate his little noises, he responds with similar sounds and it feels as though we are truly communicating—I only wish I knew what we were saying!
Of course, there is research
We know from studies that there are energetic communications between humans, humans and animals, and also between animals. The closer the emotional connection (such as between a mother and her child) the greater the energetic connection.
Research has shown that our hearts have an electromagnetic field that energetically affects those in our proximity, whether we are conscious of it or not. Studies show heart rate synchronization between adults who are sitting across from each other. (Russek LG, Schwartz GE) We have all experienced this when we are affected by the mood, attitudes or feelings of others around us.
My favourite research around this is that of Dr. Rollin McCraty, director of research at the Institute of HeartMath. He performed an experiment that involved two subjects, his son Josh, then 15, and Mabel, their dog. Both were attached to a Holter monitor and their heart rhythms were recorded. As Josh began using a technique Dr McCraty describes as ‘heart-lock’—breathing in an attitude of calm and balance into the area of the heart and directing feelings of love toward Mabel—Josh’s heart began to become coherent. That is his heart’s rhythm became more ordered, rhythmic and showed a sine wave-like pattern). In addition, Josh’s coherence appeared to influence Mabel’s heart rhythms as well and they became more aligned. It was as though Josh’s love was contagious! When Josh left the room Mabel’s heart activity became more erratic—an indication of separation anxiety.
The health benefits of coherence
When we are in a coherent state, we have a sense of greater calm, our rational thinking improves and our immune systems are stronger. Being in coherence also gives us greater capacity to take charge of our emotional states—we are able to more quickly bring ourselves back to equilibrium when we are triggered.
Increasing our levels of coherence has the added benefit of increasing compassion for both our furry friends as well as other human beings. We know that when we show compassion, we increase our levels of the healing neurochemical, oxytocin, and decrease that of the stress hormone, cortisol. This in turn increases our ability to open our hearts, build trust and connect with others, and all of these things are important to increasing our resilience and coping with daily life stresses.
The increase in oxytocin produced when animals are petted has also led to the fabulous work of therapy dogs who visit vulnerable people in hospitals. Interestingly enough, as some companies begin to focus more on wellness, therapy dogs are being brought in to assist with reducing stress which leads to and people being more productive.
The workplace and relationship benefits
I can’t leave out the fabulous work of Judith Glaser and the Conversational Intelligence® component of this topic. When we are in a state of coherence we are able to generate conversational neurochemical cocktails that trigger the trust networks in our brains.
This in turn makes us feel more positive and we feel empowered to work out issues and challenges, open ourselves up to new experiences and connect more deeply with others.
Are you up for the challenge?
Instead of just walking past your pet, take an extra few moments to really connect with them. (You can also try this with your kids/friends/family/colleagues if you don’t have a pet!) Bring a sense of openness and curiosity and notice what happens when you breathe into the area of your heart and direct feelings of love toward them. Pay particular attention to your heart and see if you can get a sense of your own heart rhythm—you will be doing wonders for your own wellbeing and sense of self.