National Love Your Pet Day

girl and dog
Image by pisauikan from Pixabay

Today is Love Your Pet Day. What an awesome holiday!

dachshund sistersBlack catsOver the years, our pets have included a golden retriever/chow mix, two long-haired dachshund sisters, an iguana and numerous cats. All of our pets have been rescues (except the iguana). Right now we have two black cats who are regularly part of my social media posts and who even take over my blog once a week.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I’ve been without at least one cat or dog. Granted, they can be a lot of work, but when they look at you with love in their eyes, it makes it all worthwhile.

Besides all the love and joy pets bring into our lives, there are also health benefits:

cats
Suki relaxing with her buddy Itsy after a tiring game of fetch
sailing
Morgan enjoying an outing on the sailboat

More exercise

Especially if the pet is a dog. Walking, running, playing frisbee or fetch keep both you and your pet in shape. We never could get our long-haired dachshunds to play fetch, but our Siamese cat Suki had a little rubber mouse she would bring to us to throw. She’d tear off after it then bring it back and drop it at our feet. This would keep up until we finally wore her out. Or maybe she wore us out.

Image by Uschi Dugulin from Pixabay

Stress relief and help with depression

What is more soothing than listening to a cat purr or having a dog lying next to you with its head in your lap? Studies have found that being around pets actually reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Pets can make us smile when we’re feeling down, too. The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes animal-assisted therapy as a treatment for depression and other mood disorders.

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

Lower blood pressure, less risk of stroke and lower risk of heart attacks

A study of hospitalized heart patients found that dogs decreased their blood pressure by about 10%. Other researchers suggest owning a cat cuts a person’s risk of having a stroke by one-third. And yet another study found that people with cats were 40% less likely to have a fatal heart attack. Scientists aren’t sure whether it’s the pets’ calming effects that make the difference or whether people who choose pets are at less risk of heart attack and more stress-free naturally. Either way, it sounds like a really good excuse to adopt a dog or cat!

Image by Westfale from Pixabay

Allergy prevention

Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

Worried about allergies? Having pets in your home when your children are young can decrease their risk of developing allergies later. A seven-year study of almost 500 children found that those who were exposed to pets as babies, were half as likely to develop allergies and asthma.

For 13 of the most heartwarming pet stories of the past decade, check out this post. Warning: It’ll make you cry!

In honor of this great holiday, how about giving Fido or Fluffy an extra treat? They deserve it.

Love is a Beautiful Thing

rose
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

As romance authors, love is often forefront in our minds. Today, a lot of the rest of the world is joining us.

One part of my job that I always find fun is coming up with unique and sometimes humorous ways to bring my couples together. We refer to that first meeting as the “meet-cute,” which is defined as “an amusing or charming first encounter between two characters that leads to the development of a romantic relationship between them.” I have my own meet-cute, which, though not especially humorous, is a little unique.

When I met my husband, it was love at first sight. Well, maybe not love, but definitely a good amount of interest. My best friend had invited me to her church singles group Christmas party, and when I saw him standing across the church yard, I was hooked. I asked her to introduce us. We began to talk, and it didn’t take long for the subject of the conversation to turn to music.

musical notes
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I told him that I play and teach piano, and he said he had seen me play somewhere. I named a couple of places. When I mentioned performing in the Young Artists Concert with the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra a year and a half earlier, he said, “That’s it! You played Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G Minor!” I decided I was dealing with a man who was really passionate about music. Or a stalker. As it turned out, he played the French horn with the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra and accompanied me at that concert.

Two weeks passed before we had our first date. Two and a half months later, we were engaged, and two and a half months after that, we were married. It’s been almost 40 years, and we’re still making music together. (Except now it’s at church rather than in a concert hall.)

For several heartwarming love stories that give The Notebook a run for its money, check out this post from Good Housekeeping.

Give Someone a Hug!

Smiling couple
– Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Go ahead. Its all right. Today is National Hugging Day.

I love to learn about obscure, little-known holidays. Some are pretty off the wall, like National Nothing Day (January 16) and Measure Your Feet Day (January 23). Huh? Who came up with those? And more importantly, WHY?

But some of these not-so-well-known holidays are pretty cool. Like January 21, National Hugging Day. Now there’s something to celebrate!

When I was at the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City last year, I was headed to a workshop on digital marketing but changed my mind the last minute and instead sat in on a talk on handling stress and burnout. That ended up being the most helpful workshop of my conference.

(I know this sounds completely unrelated to my topic, but hold on. I’m getting there.)

Woman at computer
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

The workshop presenters began by explaining how important it is to work our way through the entire stress cycle, even if we can’t do anything about the stressor. Some stressors we can eliminate with good planning and wise choices. But if the stressor is a boss or a loved one? Walking away isn’t always a good solution, and it’s illegal to shoot them.

The speakers provided several methods for completing the stress cycle, or moving from “stressed” all the way to “safe.” These included things like physical activity (running, tennis, working out), sleep (7-9 hours every 24 hours, however your body wants it split up), hearty laughter, a big cry, and creative self-expression. (Interestingly enough, once writing becomes a job, it no longer qualifies as creative self-expression for stress-relieving purposes.)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

One of the methods they talked about for completing the stress cycle was affection, things like kissing and hugging. (See? I told you I’d get there.) But a quick peck or slap on the back won’t do it. There are actually scientific studies that have determined the average number of seconds it takes to complete the stress cycle with activities involving affection. When kissing, the magic number seems to be six. (This should probably with your significant other. Otherwise, it could get really awkward. Or get you in a lot of trouble.)

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

For hugs, the ideal amount of time is a lot longer—20 seconds. That can seem like a really long time, especially if you’re counting it out. One thousand one, one thousand two…  But the exact time isn’t as important is staying in the hug until you feel the shift.

I’ve experienced this through the years on a number of occasions. After a stressful day, I have no trouble saying, “I need a hug.” And hubby is always more than willing to oblige. At a particular point, I actually do feel a shift, almost like flipping a switch.

Book coverIf this topic sounds like something you’d like to explore further, the workshop presenters, Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, have included the material in their book titled Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. 

 

So go ahead. Give someone a hug. If you can make it 20 seconds or longer (without getting slapped), go for it. You might find some health benefits you never knew existed.