Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Year's Mindfulness Intentions (Resolutions) for You and Your Pet

2015 is approaching and most of us think about New Year’s resolutions. I have made zillions of resolutions, most of which fall by the wayside within a few days let alone a few months. But, together we can make some resolutions for you and your pet that can last.

Here is a Petitation that can help you make plans for you and your pet for 2015.  Just click on each of the steps to learn more.

First sit in a Petitation posture with your back upright yet relaxed and your pet near you or your pet in view.  If this isn’t possible, just envision your pet.

Think about a time when you’re particularly happy with your pet. Sit with these thoughts for a few moments to move into a relaxed and peaceful place.

Self Reflection or Self Review for the New Year

The end of the year is a great time to do an exercise in self reflection or as others call it, a life review. Here are some steps and suggestions based on the work of Steven Levine, Rebecca Dixon, and an anonymous contributor to WikiHow.

Take some deep breaths. A quick body scan where you pay attention to and relax each body from head to toe may help.

Identify Positive Memories
Celebrate the goodness in your life. These can be major life events or small things. Give yourself credit for the kind acts you performed and your generosity. Savor the triumphs and joys.

Focus on Gratitude
[Focus on the positive things that came from other beings or situations. Gratitude meditation, regular gratitude lists or letters to people you are grateful to can help you to internalize gratitude.

Forgive Others and Yourself
Approach people and hear their responses. This may not be approval, just acceptance. This is both for you and others. If they (or you) haven’t changed yet change is unlikely.

Making Amends
Take responsibility for your behavior and make amends when it doesn’t hurt you or others. This can be financial amends, apologies, taking blame or just asking what you can do to make things better. If it is impossible to make amends send positive well wishes.

Take the life review slow and easy and don’t force things.   Build a foundation of gratitude and mindfulness before exploring possibilities of forgiveness and making amends. Only going through these steps in a full hearted way will lead to peace for you and others.

We would love to hear about your experiences.  Please respond below.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12+ Fun and Interesting Books for the Animal Lover

These are some of my favorite animal-related books.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul series
This series includes books on cats, dogs, and on animals overall.  They are written by various authors including but not limited to Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Quasha, Marty Becker, and Carol Kline.  Each of the books is full of stories and cartoons that made me laugh and cry.  One of my favorite stories so far is an older woman whose last gift from her deceased husband was a puppy delivered on the Christmas Eve after his death.  

The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs
The New Yorker Magazine and Random House teamed up to create this awesome coffee table book.  It's  a treasure of New Yorker articles, poems, and of course, drawings of pups.  It will occupy you and your guests for countless hours.

The Big New Yorker Book of Cats
And, of course, we don't want to leave the cats behind.  You will find, in this coffee table book compiled by the New Yorker and Random House, a treasure of New Yorker articles, poems, and of course, drawings of cats.  I can open it to almost any page for great enjoyment.

Alex and Me by Dr. Irene Pepperberg
You don't have to be a biologist to thoroughly enjoy this compelling and amazing story of a scientist, Irene Pepperberg and her African Grey Parrot.  Together they proved that birds are capable of understanding and using language.  I laughed and cried as I finished this book written by Dr. Pepperberg herself in one weekend.

Love Heels:  Tales from the Canine Companion for Independence by Patricia Dibsie This beautiful book with stunning photographs documents the incredible bond that service dogs have with their owners and the critical role they play in the disabled person's life. You will never see a service dog the same after spending time with this book.

Marley and Me by John Grogan
You've probably heard of this book made into a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson and an adorable puppy and then dog, Marley.  Lots of trouble and lots of fun.  A must read or see for all dog lovers, but especially those in love with a labrador retriever.

Four books by Jennifer S. Holland--Unlikely Friendships for Kids, Unlikely Loves, Unlikely Friendships, and Unlikely HeroesYou can't go wrong with any of these books highlighting the unbelievable relationships that animals have with each other and with humans.  She even created a version of her book on Unlikely Friendships for children. For a book that tugs especially hard on your heart strings, try her newest, Unlikely Heroes. And the pictures are beautiful.

Dogs Dogs Dogs:  A Collection of Great Dog Cartoons edited by S. GrossMany well-known and hilarious artists in this collection of Dog Cartoons.

The Grumpy Guide to Life:  Observations by Grumpy Cat" If someone you know needs a bit of advice, especially if they have a dry sense of humor, try Grumpy Cat.  Lots of laughs to cheer up even the grumpiest loved one.

Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer and Kerry Lee MacLeanThis is a terrific story introducing mindfulness for children and adults alike.

Please recommend your favorite animal books!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Pets and Your Hormones

We Know We Love Our Pets and They Make Us Happy, but Do They Actually Change Our Hormone Levels?

The answer seems to be a resounding YES.

  • We know that playing with, talking with and petting our pets enhances our mood, now we may know why…. Short term interaction between dog and owner results in elevated oxytocin—the “feel good hormone” levels
  • Other neurotransmitters increased after interaction between humans and dogs as well as oxytocin, include beta-endorphin (numbs pain), prolactin (stimulates milk production after childbirth, eating and mating), beta-phenylethylamine (stimulant), and dopamine (motivation and pleasure) and cortisol hormones (stress hormones) decreased.
  • Similarly, we love to gaze into our pets’ eyes. What we might not have known was that there is a physiological reason for this—it also raises our oxytocin level (feel good hormone)(One night I was telling Pippi that I “lose myself in her eyes” but my partner responded that I never talk to her that way--that’s a whole other story).
  • Can we go so far as to say that we respond to our pets in the same way that we do our children? Not quite… A pilot study showed that when women were shown pictures of their children and dogs while undergoing an fMRI, different parts of their brains showed activity (visual processing of face and social cognition for dogs vs. reward/affiliation for their child). The mothers did however, rate the same level of excitement and pleasantness between their dogs and their children.

As you can see, there is a lot of work to do to uncover exactly why our pets make us feel as good as they do. I for one, know that my pups are doing something deep in my brain and that that makes a lot of difference in my life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

This is Your Brain on Meditation: Meditating Your Way Into Health andWell-Being

Did you know that you actually change the structure of your brain when you meditate regularly? This results in better physical and emotional health and well-being.

According to recent research, when you meditate, you can grow gray matter in some parts of the brain and shrink it in others.  This is known as Neuroplasticity, the idea that your brain changes due to experiences, thoughts and emotions.   Growth in certain areas leads to increased capacity for compassion and increased self-awareness, while shrinking in others reduces stress and impulsive decision-making. Meditation can re-route neural pathways from those that lead to obsessing and worrying to those that allow you to focus on what is going on in the present moment. In fact, with time, you can change your default mode of thinking. Some athletes use meditation techniques to increase focus and “get in the zone.” It’s important to note that the research indicates that you are best off with a regular mindfulness meditation routine.

Petting Your Dog or Cat Can Result in Lower Stress and Enhanced Happiness for Your Pet and Greater Connection Between You and Your Pet by Activating Positive Hormones

I covered in the previous blog and will cover in future blogs what’s in it stroking your pet for you and your physical and emotional health, but you may be wondering what’s in it for your pet’s health and well-being. There’s research showing what as pet owners you already may know--they really, really like being pet. And, not just that, it benefits their health as much as it benefits yours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Petitations (Pet Centered Mindfulness Meditation)

Petitating yourself and your pets into better health, lower stress, and enhanced connection with each other.

Hello and welcome to Petitations - the chocolate peanut butter cup of the mind. Petitations is a combination of mindfulness meditation and pet-centered connection, both of which have an incredible impact on the health of the body and the mind.

I’m Elisabeth Paige, your guide through Petitations. Most importantly for this work, I am a daily meditator and a proud owner (although I like to say mother--- and this has been supported by the research….tune in to future blogs) of two adorable Schipperkes, Pago and Pippi.