How animals can help with your spiritual – and physical – wellbeing
Millions of us here in the UK own pets of some sort or another, whether it's a trusty hound or a cute and cuddly guinea pig. Taking care of an animal is a wonderful way to feel loved and give that love in return, so it won't come as a surprise to most owners that these pets can become very attuned to our wavelength.
However, the extent to which this can occur might surprise even the most devoted animal lover, as an announcement this month demonstrated.
Researchers in Buckinghamshire have published an article in the British Medical Journal stating that they hope to one day see patients at high risk of breast cancer being screened by dogs. In a clinical trial, they found that canines sniffing urine samples were able to accurately detect prostate cancer 93 per cent of the time.
It's thought that the dogs are sniffing out the volatile substances given off by cancerous cells using their remarkably strong sense of smell, which can detect scents diluted down to one part per trillion.
If this is indeed the case and the next trial is a success, many lives could be saved each year thanks to earlier breast cancer detection. In a strange coincidence, behavioural psychologist and one of those involved in the study Dr Claire Guest had her own breast cancer sniffed out by her dog Daisy while she was working on the trial.
Of course, we don't know if this will eventually become a viable technique for medical practitioners – and it will perhaps depend on whether or not the detection dogs are part of our family or not.
However, we already know that animals can have a beneficial effect on our spiritual wellbeing, which can in turn lead to physical health benefits.
For instance, a past study found that people who had suffered heart attacks lived longer if they owned pets than those who didn't, while further research proved that stroking an animal could reduce blood pressure.
There are numerous other examples of this kind of effect, including the use of horses to improve motor coordination in those with spinal injuries (hippotherapy).
Connecting on another level
Animal healer James French, pioneer of a training method called The Trust Technique, told Kindred Spirit magazine that this is something made possible by centuries of interaction between humans and animals.
"They have been a huge part of our own existence, with many civilisations and cultures created around the physical needs and even the spiritual understanding that animals have offered us. Animals and their roles with us humans have been constantly evolving and throughout this process they are now intertwined with our own psyche," he pointed out.
After all, if a being can think and feel, then it is going to pick up on more complex emotions and respond, whether that's consciously or unconsciously; have you ever seen a dog or cat anticipate when their owner is coming home from work?
If you have a pet, then the chances are that you've already developed a good spiritual connection with him or her. However, there are ways in which you can further strengthen this and ensure that your bond is beneficial on a deeper level.
Ways to communicate with your pet
Allen and Linda Anderson, founders of the Angel Animals Network, suggested in an article for BeliefNet that it is worth spending some silent time with your pet before you go to sleep. Stroke the animal and imagine their soul inside, then ask it to communicate with you in your dreams.
When you wake up, immediately write down any dreams you might have had and see if you can determine any messages from your pet.
Another tip was to look at a picture of the animal and ask why they are in your life right now from a spiritual point of view. Perhaps you are both there to help each other with something, whether that's rescue from a life of suffering (you to them) or help with grief (them to you).
Benefit even if you don't have pets
Don't feel left out if you haven't got a pet at home – you can try contacting a power animal that may be watching over you. This is a spiritual guardian that some of us are lucky enough to connect with while meditating.
If you see an animal during this quiet time, it could be your power animal, so do some research on it and see what it symbolises, which could explain why it has popped into your life at this time.
Finally, even if you had a pet and it has passed on, you can still experience the benefits to your psyche that it provided in life. Look at some pictures and feel the warm glow of your favourite memories together, or contact one of our mediums here at PsychicsOnline to see if they can make contact with your beloved animal on the other side.
Miley Cyrus has recently been trying this and it's amazing how much it can help you overcome the grief you can experience as a result of their loss. Give it a try – see if animals can boost your health both spiritually and physically.