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Paws for Thought – can animals really help mental wellbeing?

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The annual ‘Take your Dog to Work Day’ provided a great excuse to enjoy cute pictures of canine companions all over social media outlets. But is there more to having a dog, cat or other animal around in your daily life?

People with pets often say they feel calmer and happier for having them around. And scientific studies show that pets can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and improve opportunities for social interaction as well as encouraging people to exercise, by walking their dog for example.

Before you dismiss the idea of dogs in the workplace as something of a gimmick that might go down well at a trendy design agency or pet-related business, it’s worth taking a look at studies that show it could have real benefits for workplace health and productivity.

In studying employees in a manufacturing company, researchers for Virginia Commonwealth University, USA found that those who brought their dogs to work reported feeling significantly less stressed throughout the day than those who did not bring a dog to work.

When you consider that 11.7 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK in 2015/16, you can see that it’s serious problem. Could encouraging a few furry friends into the office help to decrease tensions and encourage more interaction?

Matt Mazzuchi, Store Manager at Jollyes Petfood Superstores in Newcastle thinks so. He says: “Having a dog around takes the corporate edge off. It makes the atmosphere more relaxed and productive. They’re proven to reduce stress and to help with concentration too. If your dog is well trained and sociable, then there are few reasons not to welcome them at work.”

Animals can offer health and wellbeing benefits beyond the workplace too. In Gateshead, a project encouraging people to keep hens has been shown to reduce depression, loneliness and the need for antipsychotic medication for those in sheltered housing and care homes.

Northumbria University studied the Henpower scheme over a 12 month period and found that it helped improve the health and wellbeing of older people by giving them responsibility for caring for the animals and lots of different ways to interact with others.

The original North East based scheme has gone on to inspire others around the UK, with volunteers known as ‘hensioners’ taking hen road shows to schools, community events and to other care homes.

So, whether it’s raining cats and dogs in the workplace or getting your day off to a cracking start with some hens, human animal interaction can be a positive tool in promoting health and wellbeing.

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Author bio:Michelle-Nicol-I-am-Wordstruck

Michelle Nicol, writer, Wordstruck writing and training

Michelle is a copywriter, trainer and brand storyteller who helps businesses tell their story through words that attract attention. A former BBC journalist, she loves nosing out a great story and sharing her writing expertise through training and workshops.

Word-struck.com