Pets and Your Health – Five Ways Owning A Pet Can Make You Healthier


Here are five interesting (and sometime surprising!) health benefits of pet ownership:

Pets Fight Allergies

I’ll bet some of you were surprised to read this one. I know I was! Turns out that what we used to believe about pets causing allergies simply wasn’t true. Researchers have found that children who grow up with a cat or dog or who live on a farm with large animals are less likely to develop allergies as well as asthma.

Scientists believe that infants’ early exposure to pet dander and the dirt and yes, germs that come with pet ownership, actually strengthens children’s immune systems. Of course, if your child is already allergic to a particular animal, this does not mean you should expose them further. I’m sure you knew that, but just want to be clear!

Pets Are Great for Senior Citizens

True story: Some insurance companies have begun to ask consumers who are over 75 if they have a pet in the home, as they recognize the positive effects of getting exercise as part of caring for the pet as well as the benefits of animal companionship. Alzheimer’s patients have fewer episodes of anxiety when there is a pet in the home and the very presence of a pet can also benefit caregivers.

Pets Decrease Stress

If you are a pet owner, you know firsthand that simply being in the presence of a beloved pet is extremely soothing (at least most of the time!) In fact, when stroking or petting your dog or cat, your brain is flooded with the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These are the same neurochemicals that drive drug addiction. Petting your cat or dog is a much healthier way to feel good!

Pet Are Good for Your Heart

Studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack live longer than heart patients who do not have a pet. Also, owning a cat could lower your chances of having heart disease in the first place. Researchers found that having a pet cat cut the owner’s chances of having a heart attack or stroke by more than a third.

Pet Make You More Social

Pets act as natural ice breakers. A 2015 study published in the journal Plos One found that people who owned pets were more apt to meet their neighbors than non-pet owners. If you’ve ever been out walking your dog, you know that the mere presence of the animal can make starting a conversation easier. The study also suggests that owning other pets can help to forge new social connections as well.

Post A Pic of Your Pet!

Clearly, there’s plenty of evidence that owning a pet is good for your health. I’d love to see a picture of your pet! Just go over to my Facebook page and post a pic of your favorite friend in the comments.

P.S. Fun facts: Cats rule the internet! As of 2105 there were an estimated 2 million cat videos on YouTube alone. This doesn’t even include other social networks. And CNN, that same year, estimated there were an astounding 6.5 billion cat pictures on the internet.

I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.

Developing Your Own Personalized Wellness Plan – Six Steps to Success

In my last article, I explained why you should consider developing your own personalized wellness plan.  I also emphasized the importance of approaching your wellness plan as a living, breathing document, one that is carefully designed to help you reach your wellness goals, rather than an inflexible set of rules you must follow. As you get healthier, you’ll want to be able to easily modify your plan to keep meeting your needs. As always, please consult your qualified medical practitioner before making changes to your diet or exercise routine, especially if you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition or you are on

Developing a wellness plan might seem like a daunting task, but I’ve found that breaking it down into six manageable steps makes the process more enjoyable.

Step One – Focus

Take some time to think about and focus in on the areas of your life in which you want to make changes. Make sure you include some aspect of your physical being, but you don’t have to confine yourself to only the physical. Maybe you want to get to a healthier weight or improve your cardiovascular conditioning or get stronger. Perhaps you really want to get a handle on your response to stress or improve your attitude and mindset. Everything counts so don’t limit yourself at this stage.

Step Two – List

Make a list of the deeper reasons you want to change, if you haven’t already. Last time, I gave you a simple exercise to do that will really help you to get at your deeper motivation. If you haven’t done that exercise, please go here [link to previous article] and read the instructions on how to complete it. Don’t skip this step. Having a list of your deeper reasons for wanting to make changes can be very motivating when you become discouraged or aren’t happy with your progress.

Step Three – Choose

Now that you have examined the areas you want to change and uncovered your deeper motivations, choose three areas for your wellness plan. You don’t want to get overwhelmed by trying to make too many changes at once, as this is a certain formula for failure. When you are satisfied with your choices, decide on exactly what changes you will make in these areas.

You will have more success if you are very specific when you decide what changes you are going to make. For example, “decrease my stress” is too broad. A more specific change would be “meditating for fifteen minutes each morning,” or “walking for thirty minutes 4 days a week,” both of which are good examples of specific changes you can make.

Step Four – Distribute

For some people, spreading those changes out over time helps them to keep from becoming overwhelmed and quitting their plan. Maybe in week one of decreasing your stress level, you meditate for fifteen minutes each morning, then in week two, in addition to meditating, you add walking for thirty minutes in the afternoon. In week three, besides meditating and walking, you add another goal – say, having one cup of coffee in the morning and herbal tea for the rest of the day.

Step Five – Reward

Plan a series of small rewards you can give yourself along the way. Rewarding yourself when you achieve milestones helps to keep you motivated and makes the process fun. Don’t forget to plan a big reward when you’ve reached your goal! Some examples of small rewards are buying yourself a book you’ve wanted to read, taking yourself to a movie or a museum or anything else that brings you joy.

Step Six – Watch

Keep up with how you are doing. You may want to track your progress in a calendar. Some people prefer to journal about their experience and others like to keep a list, checking off milestones as they go. Choose something that works for you.

I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.

Developing Your Own Personalized Wellness Plan

Most people I talk to really do want to improve themselves – their health and sense of wellbeing. Often it’s not just physical health, but other areas of life, too, such as emotional and spiritual health. Some aren’t sure where or how to start. Many have made changes successfully for a time, only to find themselves backsliding after a while. Many people make New Year’s resolutions focused around a goal such as losing weight, beginning an exercise program or giving up sugar. And while these types of resolutions may work for some people, statistics show less than 10 percent of these types of resolutions are lasting.

Listen, when it comes to wellness, it’s really not enough to set a single goal, no matter how much you want to achieve it. The best and most long-lasting results come from a wellness plan that takes into account interrelated factors such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, mood and stress management. Even better results come from a plan that is personalized to you – your lifestyle, values, circumstances, stage of life, and so on.

The healthier you are, the better you live!

Until recently, especially in the West, everything from medicine to exercise to diet was approached from a “one size fits all” perspective. One “prescription” per problem, no matter your gender, age, ethnicity or environment. But now, thanks partly to research on human genetics, we are realizing that a much more personally tailored approach to everything from weight loss to becoming a happier person is exponentially more effective when that approach is individualized.

Not only should you take into consideration things like your gender, age, ethnicity and past medical history, but also your preferences and your personality. This fine tuning of your wellness plan will enable you to build a program that is so ‘you’ that you will find it easy to stick to, and to see the results you want.

So exactly what is a wellness plan?

You’ll want to think of your wellness plan as a living, breathing document, carefully designed to help you reach your wellness goals, rather than a static, boring set of rules to follow. As you get healthier and your circumstances change, you’ll want to be able to easily modify your plan to keep up with your needs. I’ll talk more about the actual components of your wellness plan in part two of this article, but for right now, I’d like you to do one powerful thing in preparation for designing your plan. That one thing is to determine your why.

I have seen this repeatedly with my clients: Those who have a well-defined and powerful ‘why’ behind their wellness plans do so much better than those who don’t. They are able to stick to their plans without huge amounts of effort, their progress is faster and they make larger gains than those with a non-existent or weak ‘why’.

Here’s what to do. Take a writing pad and pen and go to a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. You can use your computer or tablet but trust me on this when I say your results will likely be better if you write longhand. Research shows that writing, rather than typing, activates different parts of your brain, in particular the RAS or reticular activating system. The RAS acts as a sort of filter and enables you to really focus in on what you are doing at the moment.

The first thing to do is ask yourself this simple question: “Why do I want to get in peak condition/lose weight/manage stress effectively?” Then write down your answer. But don’t stop there. Take some time to mull over this first answer and then go deeper. For example, maybe you wrote down, “I want to feel better.” But why exactly do you want to feel better? On deeper reflection, maybe it’s because you want to be able to enjoy going hiking with your husband. OK, so now do the same thing and drill deeper. Why do you want to be able to go hiking with your husband? So now the reason becomes even more compelling as you uncover your keen desire to renew your relationship with your husband on a deep level. That is the power of your why!

The Bottom Line: The healthier you are, the better you live! My goal is to help you get into peak condition to thrive in every area of your life

Here’s a quote I like from Robin Sharma: “You can’t be great if you don’t feel great. Make exceptional health your #1 priority.”

Coaching Challenge: Work on your ‘why’ and next time, I’ll go into detail about developing your own personalized plan.

I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.

Water – How Much Do You Really Need?

Do you ever wonder if you are drinking enough water? How much is enough? Is it possible to drink too much?

By now we all know that it’s important to stay hydrated to look and feel your best. Our bodies are made up of mostly water, about 60 percent for the average adult. Water isn’t a source of calories, protein or energy, but every cell in your body depends upon it to function. In addition, water lubricates your joints, is critical in regulating body temperature and helps rid the body of waste materials. Water also helps deliver oxygen throughout the body and acts as a shock absorber for your brain and spinal cord.

The largest organ in the human body is the skin. Water is essential to maintaining its moisture balance and delivering essential nutrients to skin cells. It replaces skin tissue and helps increase elasticity. This in turn promotes a healthier appearance and diminishes signs of aging.

Your body loses water throughout the day. If you are in a hot environment or participating in strenuous exercise, your rate of water loss can skyrocket. If it’s not replaced, not only can the total volume of body water fall, your blood volume can also drop. A decrease in circulating blood volume can lead to a drop in blood pressure and, if it falls enough, can be fatal.

How Much Is Enough?

So here’s the question: How much water do you actually need to drink in a day? Do you really have to carry around a huge container with you everywhere you go? And where did this idea come from that you have to drink a gallon of water a day to stay healthy?

Many of us grew up with the idea that you had to drink eight glasses of water a day, in addition to anything else you might drink like milk, juice or tea. Eight 8-ounce glasses is 64 ounces of water, or a half gallon. That’s a lot of fluid! And, as it turns out, there was never any scientific evidence for the eight glasses rule anyway!

In 2002, researcher Hans Valtin published a review questioning the eight glasses rule and two years later in 2002 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published new recommendations upholding Valtin’s research. The new guidelines state that normal, healthy adults may use thirst as a gauge of how much water they need to drink, instead of taking in a prescribed amount. Imagine that! Modern medicine recommending that you listen to your own body to determine its needs.

Exceptions to this would be people who have a medical condition that affects their thirst mechanism (as seen in some stroke patients) or a condition that requires strict fluid control (such as kidney failure), athletes, or people living in extreme environments.

Water: The Total Picture

Remember that you get some water from food and also other beverages that contain water. The current recommendation for the total amount of fluid (from all sources) you should consume in a day is 91 ounces total for women (eleven cups) and 125 ounces (15 cups) for men. You can assume that about 20 percent of your water comes from food and the other 80 percent from water and other beverages so, accounting for that, women need about nine total cups of fluid a day and men need about twelve and a half total. The researchers at IOM did not publish an upper limit for the amount of daily fluid intake. There have been rare cases of a dangerous condition known as water intoxication from drinking too much.

In general, if you are a normal, healthy adult, you can listen to what your body needs but be sure to drink several glasses of pure water daily. While beverages such as tea, coffee and other drinks count toward daily fluid intake, there’s no substitute for fresh clean water. If you don’t think you are getting enough, try increasing your normal intake by a glass or two daily. In addition, adding water rich fruits and vegetables to your diet is a great way to add water.

There’s no downside to drinking enough pure water! The upside is increased energy, better performance, keeping your system healthy and free from toxins, glowing skin. Water can also help with weight loss. If you ever find yourself starving with a ways to go before meal time, try drinking a glass of water. It fills you up and can stave off those hunger pangs. Bottom line: Drinking water helps you feel and look your healthiest. Who wouldn’t want that?

I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.

How To Get The Most Value From The Ten Tenets of Wellness

Over a few months we’ve looked at Dr. Michael Arloski’s seminal work, The Ten Tenets of Wellness. You can see in my previous intro article how he developed these concepts, and why his work is one of my favorite wellness resources.

In closing out this series on the Ten Tenets, I thought it would be useful to summarize what I learned over these last months as I delved into each tenet more deeply. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go back to each individual article (linked below) one through ten, and really familiarize yourself with the wellness principles embodied in each one.

The First Tenet – Wellness is Holistic

Dr. Arloski frames the first tenet this way: “Wellness is a choice…a decision you make to move toward optimal health.” This means it’s our choice, your choice, not what someone else wants you to do or thinks you should be. The key here is recognizing that the concept of wellness itself has to be understood holistically.

You have to look at your whole self in considering a wellness program. Keep in mind that all human beings are composed of complex and totally interrelated systems. What you put in place in one area is absolutely going to have an effect, negative or positive, on every other system; mind, body, spirit, even your environment.

The Second Tenet – Self-Esteem Is Critical

What does self-esteem have to do with wellness? Simple. You have to care enough about yourself to want to make a change, and then be able to plan and successfully carry it out. In 1995, psychotherapist Dr. Nathaniel Branden, author of Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, took a close look at self-esteem and broke it down into six component parts or ‘practices’ which he defines as: the practice of living consciously, the practice of self-acceptance, the practice of self-assertiveness, the practice of living purposefully and the practice of personal integrity.

Thinking of healthy self-esteem, not as a solid, monolithic concept, but as a collection of individual strengths which can be cultivated, helps to bring the sometimes fuzzy notion of “increasing our self-esteem” into the realm of the possible for all of us.

The Third Tenet – Supportive Relationships Are a Must

When you are trying to make changes, especially in the wellness arena, who you surround yourself with is critically important. People are generally going to fall into one of two camps. They are either going to try to discourage you from following through on your goals and disparage your attempts, or they are going to be supportive and encouraging.

What you need now are people who won’t be threatened by your journey and who support your growth and development, not those who want to sabotage it. For some, this may mean finding a few friends who understand and can support you on your path. Family can be more of a challenge. I think just being quietly consistent in your efforts without trying to change their minds or challenge them is the best route to go.

The Fourth Tenet – Wake Up!

How many of us go through our lives on auto-pilot, never thinking about our choices, or their long term effects on our lives or health? Making the choice to wake up and live a conscious life can be one of the most important moments in your life and start you on your wellness journey.

As Dr. Arloski puts it, “Conscious living means becoming aware of all the choices we have and acting on them.” It’s when you start to live with intenton that you start to really live.

The Fifth Tenet – Connectedness Works

This tenet goes beyond human relationships and emphasizes loving and grounding relationships with other species; animals, plants and the earth itself. Not only are we alienated from each other even in our own communities, we are even further alienated from the natural world. Dr. Arloski writes that it’s not only our connectedness to other people, but to other species and the earth that truly ‘grounds’ us in our lives and lets us discover at a deep level that we truly are ‘all of one heart.’

Being able to really identify with where we live, knowing local foliage, the animals, the weather patterns of our region; these are all supremely important for reconnecting with the earth, our home. When you re-establish your connection to the earth, you’ll likely find you’ve re-established a sense of profound beauty, peace and harmony that is to be found nowhere else.

The Sixth Tenet – YOU Are Responsible

The idea of assuming responsibility for your life, which includes your health, is not a new idea. Everyone from the ancient Stoics, to the Dalai Lama advocates the concept that everything in our lives is, in some way, the product of our own decisions. Your sense of wellbeing is no exception. Many things in our complicated, often chaotic world are out of our control. Our decisions, though, are ours and ours alone. You get to choose how you will live.

The Seventh Tenet – From Self-Sufficiency Comes Confidence

Michael Arloski’s Seventh Tenet tells us that when we cultivate increased self-sufficiency we gain confidence and power that overshadow fears.

He points out that choosing to cultivate life skills, such as learning to grow some of your own food, baking bread from scratch, going hiking into a wilderness area or even learning to do mechanical tasks like changing the oil in your car or fixing a flat tire on your bike…that mastering these or similar skills, will give you confidence and power that translates over other areas of your life.

The Eighth Tenet – Solo Time Is Essential

Some time alone, especially in nature, is essential for really getting to know who you are and where you are going. But what is it about solitude in nature that would let us look more deeply into ourselves than solitude spent indoors or in a city environment? There is ample scientific evidence that being in nature is good for you, both physically and mentally. Richard Louv, a journalist and author who coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ puts it this way: “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

The Ninth Tenet – Perfectionism Is Not Required

There are good sides and bad sides to perfectionism. All of us want our work and most other things we do to be the best it can be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having high standards. But constantly striving for perfection, in any endeavor, is a set-up for failure. Perfection in anything you do is nearly impossible to obtain. So, when you attempt something and don’t get ‘perfect’ results or do it “100 percent,” you have no choice but to see those results as a failure, no matter the outcome.

Change your mindset when it comes to so-called “failure” or mistakes. Some of our best opportunities and learning come from what we might first view as failure. If you look it as an opportunity to learn and grow, it only becomes a detour on your road to success.

The Tenth Tenet – Go Play!

You may be asking yourself, as an adult, what does play mean? Actually, the definition of play is the same whether you are nine or ninety: play is an activity that you do for enjoyment and for recreation, rather than for a serious or practical purpose. So it’s not really the activity that defines play but why you are doing it.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you really played? If you’re like a lot of adults, you may be waiting for someone to give you ‘permission’ to lighten up or a time when you are “not so busy.” The truth is that you are the only one who can give yourself that permission. Even when you are working, you can make a conscious effort to bring humor and fun into the mix.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on the Ten Tenets of Wellness and that you take this wisdom to heart and begin to incorporate some of these ideas into your own life!

And – I love to hear from you so please share your thoughts or comment below.

Go Play! -The Tenth Tenet

WTen Tenets of Wellness.  We’ve looked at these powerful guidelines to living a life full of meaning and one in which physical health is important, and also part of a greater whole.

This is the last of the tenets, Go Play!   Here’s a question: When was the last time you really played? If you are like most adults, you may be waiting for someone to give you ‘permission’ to lighten up or some time in the future when you aren’t so busy.

But guess what? That permission comes from within you.  You can even make a conscious effort (Tenet No. Four) to bring humor and playfulness to work with you.

As an adult you may be wondering, what does play mean?  The definition of play is the same, whether you are nine or ninety: play is an activity that you do for enjoyment and recreation, rather than for a serious or practical purpose. So it’s not really the activity itself that defines play but why you are doing it.

Dr. Stuart Brown, a clinically trained psychiatrist, heads up the National Institute of Play. In a 2014 interview with National Public Radio he explains “Play is something done for its own sake,” he explains. “It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

For adults, play is a very individual thing. For some people, play could be stamp collecting or reading books and for others, it could mean biking, hiking or boating. A 2017 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences underscores that not all adults play alike and classifies adults who are playful into distinct four types.

These playful adult types are Other-directed, Lighthearted, Intellectual or Whimsical. Other-directed people are those who like to hang out with friends, family and colleagues. Lighthearted adults are those who don’t think much about the future consequences of their play. Intellectual adults are those who like to play with ideas and thoughts, and Whimsical adults are those who are interested in strange or unusual things and also get enjoyment from everyday observations.

Play can be part of ‘serious business’ as well. Google, the giant of the search engine world, has long recognized play as an adjunct to helping its employees be more innovative, and to foster team building and cooperation. They were one of the first big companies to set up ‘play stations’ and scatter them around their campus, featuring ping pong and foosball tables as well as billiards.

So how can you incorporate more play into your life? One way is to think of activities you enjoyed as a child, then find ways to bring a version of that back into your adult life.

Another way is to schedule lessons in something you think you’d enjoy learning, such as fencing or horseback riding. Or schedule a date with a friend to explore a new city or a museum.

The important thing is not what you do, but that you do it for fun. Now go out and play!

And if you want to share your thoughts on how you play, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear!

Make the most of January!

Are You Ready?

I usually spend at least part of December reviewing the year just past and planning for the year to come.  I try to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go as well as hoped, and how I might approach things differently in the future.  I’ve learned not to be as afraid of so-called “failures” as I might have been in earlier years, because I believe nothing is wasted.  Things that may not have worked out as originally planned have often led me to new learning and insight and, just as often, a new commitment or opportunity.  So it’s all good.

I’ve don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions simply because, at least for me, I know that if it’s time to make a change, any day of the year will work if I’m ready to commit. If I’m not ready, really ready, to make a change and do whatever it takes to follow through, a date on the calendar isn’t going to do it.  But that’s me.  The idea of a new year, a clean slate, is appealing to many and can be a benchmark to get started.  Research in goal setting shows that the more specific a goal is, the better the chance of attainment.  If January 1st works as your target date, by all means, go for it.  It’s important, though, to make sure your goal is realistic, and that you have the support you need to set yourself up for success.  That’s true of any goal-setting strategy.  This isn’t really about New Year’s resolutions, though.  There will be lots of articles written about that this time of year.

What I wanted to talk about here is commitment and what that means.  Because, make no mistake, real change requires commitment.  And commitment often requires work of the hardest kind.  It requires planning, dedication and determination.  It requires doing things you don’t always feel like doing and continuing when you want to just throw in the towel.  It’s hard stuff.  I know from personal experience. I’ve been there more than a few times.  Change isn’t easy.  And what can be even harder is staying changed, maintaining those hard-won victories over ourselves.  The good thing is that change, real change, change that sticks, can happen.  And getting through whatever it takes to get there is worth it.  So, commitment – are you willing to commit?  That’s the real question.  Because once you commit, really commit, reaching your goal is just a matter of time.