“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” ~ Edward O. Wilson
I have long been an advocate of leveraging the health benefits that result from our relationships with animals. I was converted in the early 90s when Jonathan Keep, one of our staff at a residential treatment center for girls in the care of the state of New Jersey operated by the Devereux Foundation, created an award winning pet therapy program. We collaborated with psychiatrist Aaron Katcher, whose research on the therapeutic benefits of pet therapy was subsequently published in Biophlia Hypothesis. The “biophilia hypothesis,” a somewhat controversial idea put forward by Edward Wilson, suggests that humans evolved as creatures deeply enmeshed with nature and that this affinity is still ingrained in our genotype.
Our pet therapy program, which included a miniature pony named Disney, miniature goats, sheep, llamas, swans, and geese, was a stunning success. Recently, one of the girls reminisced with me on Facebook about how she was the girl that would protect visitors from our gaggle of guard geese. She was just one of many whose relationship with our pets helped her find meaning during a difficult time of life.
Years later when I was writing an article for Social Work Today I caught up with Aaron Katcher again in the wake of a tainted pet food scandal. Writing that article, I learned how research continues to grow regarding the health benefits resulting from our connections to animals, including positive heart health and the reduction of stress. You can read the article Poisoned Pets: Losing Man’s Best Friend here.
This week there is more good news about the pet/human affinity that Wilson hypothesized about. The LA Times reported that corporations where employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work have less stress. “If your office seems like it’s going to the dogs, try bringing your dogs to the office!”
The researchers measured cortisol, the stress hormone, in employees at the beginning of the day and the end of the day and found this compelling evidence: By the end of the day, the average stress level scores fell about 11% among people who had brought their dogs to work, while they rose as much as 70% for members of the other groups.
Meredith Wells-Lepley, a research associate at the Institute for Workplace Innovation at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, said the new study helps quantify the stress-reducing value of bringing pets to the office. Her own work showed that cats also had a stress-relieving effect — and that, for the most part, people responded positively to all breeds of either animal.
“Short-haired black cats were the exception,” she said. Ahem… I beg to differ and my Maybelle, most definitely takes exception to that.
If you are a dog owner you won‘t want to miss “Take Your Dog to Work Friday” on June 12, 2012 so that you can try working with a dog instead of like a dog for one day! If you are business owner or executive, how about letting your employees bring their dogs to work for a day?
Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself: How does your pet bring joy to your life? How can you incorporate the biophilia hypothesis in your work environment? How can you add some appreciation for nature to your life every day?
If you would you like to be coached on how to reduce your stress and increase your engagement at work contact Dr. Lynn K. Jones for a free coaching session.
P.S. Thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to share their stories of their biophilia connections or wishes to forward the blog link to friends that are pet lovers.
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Board Certified Coach and an Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. A MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.
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