Category: Health

How service dogs are helping veterans heal.

Time for a break.

I’m well up on my second book so thought that I should offer a post for the day.

It’s a documentary on how dogs are helping the veterans heal.

Here’s how it goes:

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Documentary shines a light on how service dogs are helping veterans heal

By MARY JO DILONARDO
November 7, 2019

Greg Kolodziejczy snuggles with his service dog, Valor, in a scene from the documentary ‘To Be of Service.’ (Photo: ‘To Be of Service’)

When veterans return from combat, many can’t leave behind the terrors they witnessed. In the U.S., roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day — or one every 65 minutes — according to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The psychological pain of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) breaks up relationships, ends jobs and causes depression and other issues. To help manage the haunting memories and pain, some veterans have found respite in four-legged treatment. Trained service dogs have helped some veterans return to their lives after combat.

The documentary “To Be of Service” follows several American veterans of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam and the dogs that help them cope with PTSD. The film was directed by Josh Aronson, known for the Oscar-nominated documentary “Sound and Fury” about deaf families.

Many of the veterans in the documentary had turned to medications, alcohol or illegal drugs to try to cope with life after combat. But the film shows how having to care for a dog gave them a sense of a purpose and an ever-present friend.

‘I had to tell these stories’

Glen Moody rarely left his house before being paired with Indy. (Photo: ‘To Be of Service’)

The documentary follows nearly a dozen veterans including Glen Moody, who was a Navy Corpsman stationed with the Marines in Iraq. He never got into a fight in his life before he was deployed, but he returned an adrenaline junkie. He would get into bar brawls and ride his motorcycle drunk at 100 mph. He was heavily meditated to treat his PTSD, but never went out, eventually losing all his friends.

“They spend millions to make us warriors but not near enough to teach us to return home,” Moody says.

After being paired with service dog Indy, his rage and anxiety has started to subside. He has made friends again and he rides his motorcycle “like an adult,” he says.

It’s stories like this that prompted producer Julie Sayres to get involved. She has been writing about and working with veterans for the past several years.

“I began to imagine how unsafe a veteran struggling with physical and emotional trauma must feel upon returning from war, to a world that doesn’t have a clue what he or she has endured. It’s isolating and terrifying, leading to never leaving the house, excessive drinking or drug use and in many cases, suicide. I began to explore what these amazing service dogs do to mitigate this kind of anguish,” said Sayres.

“I’ve seen men and women come back to life after letting a dog into their life. I’ve seen families come together after the black cloud of despair is lifted from their father, mother, daughter or son. I had to tell these stories.”

Currently, the film is scheduled for screenings in about a dozen cities, but more will likely be added. To find a screening near you or to find out how to schedule a community or educational screening, check out the film’s website.

Here’s a tissue-worthy peek at what to expect:

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I have said it before and no doubt that I will say it again many times: A dog is without doubt man’s best friend!

Dogs are meat-eaters!

Humans are not – never have been!

On Monday when Jeannie and I went to our regular session at Club Northwest, Jean to her Rock Steady class, and me to spend 45 minutes with Austin Raymond, one of the fitness coaches, he and I were speaking of health in general and veganism in particular. Austin, Jean and I are vegans.

Austin mentioned had we watched the film The Game Changers on Netflix? I replied that we had not but we were subscribers to Netflix and would watch it in the evening.

Well what an incredible film! I mean really incredible!

P.S. If you are a Netflix subscriber then you may watch it without any fuss.

(So I taken time out from book writing to publish this post; I’m over 9,000 words already written in November!)

Here’s a YouTube trailer to the film:

Have you ever seen an ox eating meat!

But apart from the solid science that we never were meat-eaters were the facts about illness being so much prevalent in those eating meat compared to vegans. That was just one aspect of the film that grabbed our attention! There were many more.

Back to fundamentals!

Let’s examine one fact, the jaw shape.

Here’s the jaw of a dog.

Dog skull and jaw isolated on white

and here’s another:

That is a mouth that has evolved to tear meat from an animal.

And here’s the jaw of a human:

and the picture of the whole skull.

Notice that the teeth have always been adapted to eat fruit and vegetables.

And that’s before we think how much land has been converted from natural land and forest to grazing land for cattle and sheep!

Now I don’t know how long the full documentary will remain for free on YouTube but here it is:

It is an hour and twenty-five minutes long.

But PLEASE watch it! It’s very important.

And I would be very interested in your thoughts!

In my opinion this is as important as it gets.

Thank you, Austin!

Dogs and human health

There’s no shortage of good news about the benefits of a dog in your life.

I have been reading recently about how having a dog, or six, in your life is linked to that life being extended. As I shall be 75 in eleven days time this was not a casual thought.

The reading was as a result of two new studies being published recently: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. I was going to ‘top and tail’ one of these articles and publish it in this place.

But then I decided to do my own research and first off went to the American Heart Association website.

I was blown away by the results. Using their own search facility I put in the word ‘dog’ and received 313 responses. Top of the list were the two articles that I just mentioned.

But first a word about the Association. As their History page very comprehensively says (just a small extract from me):

Before the American Heart Association existed, people with heart disease were thought to be doomed to complete bed rest — or destined to imminent death.

But a handful of pioneering physicians and social workers believed it didn’t have to be that way. They conducted studies to learn more about heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. Then, on June 10, 1924, they met in Chicago to form the American Heart Association — believing that scientific research could lead the way to better treatment, prevention and ultimately a cure. The early American Heart Association enlisted help from hundreds, then thousands, of physicians and scientists.

“We were living in a time of almost unbelievable ignorance about heart disease,” said Paul Dudley White, one of six cardiologists who founded the organization.

In 1948, the association reorganized, transforming from a professional scientific society to a nationwide voluntary health organization composed of science and lay volunteers and supported by professional staff.

Since then, the AHA has grown rapidly in size and influence — nationally and internationally — into an organization of more than 33 million volunteers and supporters dedicated to improving heart health and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Here is a timeline of American Heart Association milestones in more than 90 years of lifesaving history:

Read more if you want to here.

Now I’m going to republish the first two articles from that long list of published items. The first is Do dog owners live longer?

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Do dog owners live longer?

As dog lovers have long suspected, owning a canine companion can be good for you. In fact, two recent studies and analyses published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a scientific journal of the American Heart Association, suggest your four-legged friend may help you do better after a heart attack or stroke and may help you live a longer, healthier life. And that’s great news for dog parents!

Dog owners have better results after a major health event.

The studies found that, overall, dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners. And they often recover better from major health events such as heart attack or stroke, especially if they live alone.

Some exciting stats for dog owners:

  • Heart attack survivors living by themselves had a 33% reduced risk of death if they owned a dog, while survivors living with someone else (a partner or child) had a 15% reduced risk.
  • Stroke survivors living by themselves had a 27% reduced risk of death if they owned a dog, while survivors living with someone else (a partner or child) had a 12% reduced risk.
  • Dog owners are 31% less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than non-dog owners.

Learn more about what the research shows.

Move more, stress less.

Interacting with dogs can boost your production of “happy hormones” such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. This can lead to a greater sense of well-being and help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And having a dog can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, ease depression and improve fitness.

Studies show that people who walk their dogs get significantly more exercise than those who don’t. And there’s a bonus: our pets can also help us feel less social anxiety and interact more with other humans. Maybe that’s why dog owners report less loneliness, depression and social isolation.

Make the most of dog ownership.

Here are some tips to make the most of your four-legged companion time:

  • Playing and interacting with your pooch will bring the most health benefits for both of you.
  • Get out with your pet. Not only are the walks good for both of you, you may find yourself meeting other dog owners in your area. And socializing can be a good thing!
  • Some dogs love to travel. Research pet-friendly hotels so you and your furry friend can have all sorts of adventures together.
  • Everybody loves a good snuggle. Give lots of scratches behind the ears, belly rubs or good old-fashioned head pats. The more you love your pet, the more they’ll love you back.

\Source:

Dog ownership associated with longer life, especially among heart attack and stroke survivors, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes Journal Report, October 2019

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The second is also very recent, about the findings from Sweden.

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Here’s more evidence your dog might lengthen your life

By American Heart Association News

(filadendron/E+, Getty Images)

Letting your health go to the dogs might turn out to be a great idea: New research bolsters the association between dog ownership and longer life, especially for people who have had heart attacks or strokes.

Earlier studies have shown dog ownership alleviates social isolation, improves physical activity and lowers blood pressure. The new work builds on that, said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, who led a committee that wrote a 2013 report about pet ownership for the American Heart Association.

“While these non-randomized studies cannot prove that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this,” he said in a news release.

The two new studies were published Tuesday in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

One study, from Sweden, compared dog owners and non-owners after a heart attack or stroke. Records of nearly 182,000 people who’d had heart attacks and nearly 155,000 people who’d had strokes were examined. Dog ownership was confirmed with data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture, where registration of dog ownership has been mandatory since 2001, and the Swedish Kennel Club, where pedigree dogs have been registered since 1889.

When compared with people who didn’t own dogs, owners who lived alone had a 33% lower risk of dying after being hospitalized for a heart attack. For dog owners who lived with a partner or child, the risk was 15% lower.

Dog-owning stroke survivors saw a similar benefit. The risk of death after hospitalization for those who lived alone was 27% lower. It was 12% lower if they lived with a partner or child.

What’s behind the canine advantage?

“We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death,” said study co-author Dr. Tove Fall, a doctor of veterinary medicine and a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. “Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people. Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health.”

The second set of researchers reviewed patient data from more than 3.8 million people in 10 separate studies.

Compared to non-owners, dog owners had a 24% reduced risk of dying from any cause; a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular-related issues; and a 65% reduced risk dying after a heart attack.

The study did not account for factors such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership, said co-author Dr. Caroline Kramer, an endocrinologist and clinician scientist at Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “The results, however, were very positive.”

As a dog owner herself, Kramer said adopting her miniature Schnauzer, Romeo, “increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love.”

Tove, however, cautioned more research needs to be done before people are prescribed dogs for health reasons. “Moreover, from an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life.”

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

American Heart Association News Stories

American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to the American Heart Association News. See full terms of use.

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.

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Case made; hook, line and sinker!

Welcome Loki!

I can’t resist republishing this post.

The post was on the Ugly Hedgehog forum and it was an introduction by a new member, Toney Barber.

This is what he wrote:

Just a quick hello before heading out for our morning walk – my dog walks me 5 miles a day! Thanks for having this great space for sharing and learning from others. I am new to the art and looking forward to achieving pro status in the years ahead. I enjoy landscape photography but am experimenting with other genres too.

I replied:

Tony, what a fabulous dog.

What’s his or her name?

And soon came the answer:

His name is Loki and he lives up to his namesake without question. He is a rescue and when I first saw him in his cage, his back was leaning against the gate, his back toward me, staring over his shoulder at me. His gaze was one of relief, and it felt like he was saying “I knew you’d come”. Two and a half years ago this awesome dog came home with me and, well, as they say, “the rest is history”.

Back to the photograph that came with the original entry:

Isn’t he gorgeous! And that’s an understatement!

I then asked Toney if I might republish the photograph.

Again, in time, Toney replied:

Of course. I’m attaching another shot from the same session. Shoot me a link to your blog. I’de love to check it out.

And this is that second photograph of beautiful, handsome Loki!

(Please note that permission has been specifically granted to me to republish the above two photographs and that there is no authority whatsoever for the photographs to be copied from this blogpost. I need to say that!)

But I will close by saying that I am extremely grateful to Toney for allowing me to republish these photographs of the very beautiful Loki!

What a beautiful dog!

It’s not just me!

I thought this was worth sharing!

The problem with coming up to the age of 75, and aware that I am close to the average life expectancy in the US, is that one increasingly worries about stuff. Such as it seems like the world is becoming more unsettled. But then it is put down to age!

But this article does imply that it is a more unsettled world and we should take notice. Republished with permission.

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5 tips for surviving in an increasingly uncertain world

What does the future hold – and how will you handle what comes next?
Svetlana Lukienko/Shutterstock.com

Jelena Kecmanovic, Georgetown University

A recent study showed that North Americans are becoming less tolerant of uncertainty.

The U.S. presidential impeachment inquiry has added another layer of uncertainty to an already unstable situation that includes political polarization and the effects of climate change.

As a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area, I hear people report being stressed, anxious, worried, depressed and angry. Indeed, an American Psychological Association 2017 survey found that 63% of Americans were stressed by “the future of our nation,” and 57% by the “current political climate.”

Humans dislike uncertainty in most situations, but some deal with it better than others. Numerous studies link high intolerance of uncertainty to anxiety and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, PTSD and eating disorders.

While no one person can reduce the uncertainty of the current political situation, you can learn to decrease intolerance of uncertainty by implementing these scientifically sound strategies.

1. Commit to gradually facing uncertainty

Even though humans encounter uncertain situations every day, we often avoid feeling the discomfort of facing the uncertainty.

When unsure how to best proceed with a work assignment, you might either immediately seek help, over-research or procrastinate. As you prepare for the day, uncertainty about the weather or traffic is quickly short-circuited by checking a phone. Similarly, inquiries about family or friends’ whereabouts or emotions can be instantly gratified by texting or checking social media.

All this avoidance of uncertainty leads to relief in the short run, but lessens your ability to tolerate anything short of complete certainty in the long run.

Tolerance for uncertainty is like a muscle that weakens if not used. So, work that muscle next time you face uncertainty.

Start gradually: Resist the urge to reflexively check your GPS the next time you are lost and aren’t pressured for time. Or go to a concert without Googling the band beforehand. Next, try to sit with the feelings of uncertainty for a while before you pepper your teenager with texts when he is running late. Over time, the discomfort will diminish.

2. Connect to a bigger purpose

Rita Levi-Montalcini.
Presidency of Italian Republic/Wikimedia, CC BY

Rita Levi-Montalcini was a promising young Jewish scientist when fascists came to power in Italy and she had to go into hiding. As World War II was raging, she set up a secret lab in her parents’ bedroom, studying cell growth. She would later say that the meaning that she derived from her work helped her to deal with the evil outside and with the ultimate uncertainty of whether she would be discovered.

What gives your life meaning? Finding or rediscovering your life purpose can help you deal with uncertainty and the stress and anxiety related to it.

Focusing on what can transcend finite human existence – whether it is religion, spirituality or dedication to a cause – can decrease uncertainty-driven worry and depression.

3. Don’t underestimate your coping ability

You might hate uncertainty because you fear how you would fare if things went badly. And you might distrust your ability to cope with the negative events that life throws your way.

Most people overestimate how bad they will feel when something bad happens. They also tend to underestimate their coping abilities.

It turns out that humans are generally resilient, even in the face of very stressful or traumatic events. If a feared outcome materializes, chances are you will deal with it better than you could now imagine. Remember that the next time uncertainty rears its head.

4. Bolster resilience by increasing self-care

You have probably heard it many times by now: Sleep well, exercise and prioritize social connections if you want to have a long and happy life.

What you might not know is that the quantity and quality of sleep is also related to your ability to deal with uncertainty. Exercise, especially of the cardio variety, can increase your capacity to cope with uncertain situations and lower your stress, anxiety and depression. A new review study suggests that regular exercise may even be able to prevent the onset of anxiety and anxiety disorders.

Possibly the best tool for coping with uncertainty is making sure that you have an active and meaningful social life. Loneliness fundamentally undermines a person’s sense of safety
and makes it very hard to deal with the unpredictable nature of life.

Having even a few close family members or friends imparts a feeling that “we are in this all together,” which can protect you from psychological and physical problems.

5. Appreciate that absolute certainty is impossible

Nothing is certain in life. The sooner you start thinking about that fact, the easier it will be to face it.

Moreover, repeated attempts at predicting and controlling everything in life can backfire, leading to psychological problems like OCD.

In spite of civilization’s great progress, the fantasy of humankind’s absolute control over its environment and fate is still just that – a fantasy. So, I say to embrace the reality of uncertainty and enjoy the ride.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter. ]The Conversation

Jelena Kecmanovic, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Georgetown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Photo Credit: Twitter/bendemistims

Now whatever uncertainty exists in your life a dog or two will make things a great deal better.

That’s a fact!

There’s no end to the things dogs do.

This is about a dog that lives near a golf course.

This was a story that appeared on The Dodo website in September. Unfortunately I can’t seem to republish the video nor the entry in Instagram but it is still a cute story and worth sharing with you all.

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Friendly Dog Who Lives Near Golf Course Loves Begging For Pets

She even has her own little window ❤️️

BY
PUBLISHED ON 09/27/2019

Loni Gaisford was out golfing with her family last Sunday at the Mick Riley Golf Course in Murray, Utah, when she saw something unusual by the fourth hole.

Golf balls were attached in a ring to the metal fence separating the green from a neighboring house. Gaisford decided to investigate, curious why someone would make such a strange display.

Loni Gaisford

“When we pulled up to the tee box … we noticed the golf ball ring in the fence with a sign next to it,” Gaisford told The Dodo. “I walked over to read the sign thinking it was a memorial for someone.”
The sign read: “Hi! My name is River. I’m a 5 Y.O. female. When I find your lost ball, I will add it to my necklace. Good luck!”

Loni Gaisford

Gaisford finally understood the hilarious meaning behind the golf ball ring — and then she spotted the dog from the photo, playing nearby.
“We noticed River was in the backyard with a toy,” Gaisford said. “[She] walked over to the hole in the fence but the toy was too big to stick her head through the window so she just let us rub her back.”

After Gaisford teed off, she returned to say goodbye to River. The dog suddenly dropped the toy and stuck her head through the “necklace” to receive a few head scratches
Gaisford posted the video to her Instagram later that night, and as the comments came in, she realized that River was something of a local celebrity. “Every time I play that course she never does that … Jealous,” one commenter wrote.
Another commenter couldn’t resist making a few golf puns: “What’s the best type of fence for a dog who lives next to a golf course!? A fence with a hole in one!”
When the video made it to Reddit, more golf lovers shared stories of their own special experiences with the pup: ”One day, I was at McRiley and the owner of that dog was walking her (no leash) and she jumped right into our cart and sat down,” la_fern72 wrote on Reddit. “She was super friendly.”

Gaisford couldn’t be happier that her video has reached so many people — including those who will never set foot on a golf course. “Meeting River brightened my day,” Gaisford said, “and I knew the internet would love meeting River as much as I did.”

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Well I tried ever so hard to find a way of showing you the video, and unfortunately it is not on YouTube, so you are going to have to go across to the website to watch it. Sorry!

The treasure that is a pit bull

This is the true nature of this breed.

Pit Bulls have such a bad reputation. But in our experience if they are cared for and loved and not used for fighting then they are great dogs.

No better illustrated than by this story that appeared on The Dodo website.

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Dog Refuses To Leave Mom’s Hospital Room After Saving Her Life

SUCH a good girl 👏🐕💕
BY

PUBLISHED ON 10/10/2019

When Shauna Darcy first brought Ruby home, the plan was to have Ruby act as a service dog to help her with anxiety, depression and agoraphobia. Ruby was an incredible service dog and companion from the very beginning — and quickly showed Darcy just how far she would go to help her.

Shauna Darcy

“While she was training to be a service dog I noticed that she started picking up on changes in my heart rate and would act funny — for example, paw at me, try to get my attention, get on top of me, etc.,” Darcy told The Dodo.

Picking up on Ruby’s cues, Darcy went to the doctor and discovered she had health issues she hadn’t known about, including a rare heart condition called vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Ruby had known something was wrong even before Darcy did, and her main focus as a service dog quickly switched to Darcy’s cardiac issues.

 

Shauna Darcy

Every day, Ruby helps her mom with things like monitoring her heart rate and blood pressure, helping her during panic attacks and retrieving emergency medications. She also carries groceries, picks up dropped items and gets things her mom can’t reach, and is trained in deep pressure therapy.

“When I pass out she gets on top of me and applies all her pressure on me and licks my hands and face until I come around,” Darcy said.

Shauna Darcy

Ruby is there for her mom every single day — even when she doesn’t realize she needs her.

Last week, when Ruby started alerting her mom that something was wrong, she had no idea why. At that point, Darcy was feeling fine, but decided to trust Ruby and call an ambulance anyway, just in case.

“It turns out my heart was going into atrial fibrillation,” Darcy said. “By the time the paramedics came, I was in pain and barely conscious.”

Shauna Darcy

As the paramedics rushed Darcy to the hospital, she realized that Ruby had saved her life that day.

While Darcy was in the hospital and the doctors worked to get her stable again, Ruby refused to leave her mom’s side. Even while Darcy was unconscious, Ruby lay in her hospital bed, pressed up against her, hoping her mom could sense she was there and that her presence would make her feel safe.

Shauna Darcy

During their stay at the hospital, so many people stopped by to meet Ruby. She’s always very popular whenever she and her mom are at the hospital and loves saying hi to everyone — but also makes sure that she’s never too far away from her mom. She loves her so much, and her mom loves her just as much right back.

Shauna Darcy

Without Ruby, Darcy’s life would be very different. Ruby helps her mom stay healthy and safe every single day, and her mom is so grateful for everything she’s done for her.

“I wouldn’t be alive without her,” Darcy said.

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“I wouldn’t be alive without her,”

I’m emboldening that last statement.

This is a wonderful story.

For Darcy has articulated what millions of other dog lovers know in their hearts. That the relationship between a dog and a human is extra special!

Being alone!

We have had a taste of this a week-and-a-half ago.

We were truly alone when we went to Utah.

But then again, one of the privileges of being on 13 acres, 13 very rural acres, here in Southern Oregon is that being alone is not that far away!

I don’t want to underplay the importance of this posting, republished from The Conversation website (with permission), because we live in so busy times.

Written by three professors, it’s a very wise and profound article.

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Spending time alone in nature is good for your mental and emotional health

June 4th, 2018

By

Professor of Outdoor Education, Montreat College

Associate Professor and Program Director of Parks and Recreation Management, Western Carolina Universit

Associate Professor of Outdoor Education, Montreat College

Today Americans live in a world that thrives on being busy, productive and overscheduled. Further, they have developed the technological means to be constantly connected to others and to vast options for information and entertainment through social media. For many, smartphones demand their attention day and night with constant notifications.

As a result, naturally occurring periods of solitude and silence that were once commonplace have been squeezed out of their lives. Music, reality TV shows, YouTube, video games, tweeting and texting are displacing quiet and solitary spaces. Silence and solitude are increasingly viewed as “dead” or “unproductive” time, and being alone makes many Americans uncomfortable and anxious.

But while some equate solitude with loneliness, there is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. The latter is essential for mental health and effective leadership.

We study and teach outdoor education and related fields at several colleges and organizations in North Carolina, through and with other scholars at 2nd Nature TREC, LLC, a training, research, education and consulting firm. We became interested in the broader implications of alone time after studying intentionally designed solitude experiences during wilderness programs, such as those run by Outward Bound. Our findings reveal that time alone in nature is beneficial for many participants in a variety of ways, and is something they wish they had more of in their daily life.

On an average day in 2015, individuals aged 15 and over spent more than half of their leisure time watching TV. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans Time Use Survey

Reflection and challenge

We have conducted research for almost two decades on Outward Bound and undergraduate wilderness programs at Montreat College in North Carolina and Wheaton College in Illinois. For each program, we studied participants’ experiences using multiple methods, including written surveys, focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews and field notes. In some cases, we asked subjects years later to look back and reflect on how the programs had affected them. Among other questions, our research looked at participant perceptions of the value of solo time outdoors.

Our studies showed that people who took part in these programs benefited both from the outdoor settings and from the experience of being alone. These findings build on previous research that has clearly demonstrated the value of spending time in nature.

Scholars in fields including wilderness therapy and environmental psychology have shown that time outdoors benefits our lives in many ways. It has a therapeutic effect, relieves stress and restores attention. Alone time in nature can have a calming effect on the mind because it occurs in beautiful, natural and inspirational settings.

Spending time in city parks like Audubon Park in New Orleans provides some of the same benefits as time in wilderness areas, including reduced stress levels and increased energy levels. InSapphoWeTrust, CC BY-SA

Nature also provides challenges that spur individuals to creative problem-solving and increased self-confidence. For example, some find that being alone in the outdoors, particularly at night, is a challenging situation. Mental, physical and emotional challenges in moderation encourage personal growth that is manifested in an increased comfort with one’s self in the absence of others.

Being alone also can have great value. It can allow issues to surface that people spend energy holding at bay, and offer an opportunity to clarify thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires. It provides time and space for people to step back, evaluate their lives and learn from their experiences. Spending time this way prepares them to re-engage with their community relationships and full work schedules.

Putting it together: The outdoor solo

Participants in programmed wilderness expeditions often experience a component known as “Solo,” a time of intentional solitude lasting approximately 24-72 hours. Extensive research has been conducted on solitude in the outdoors because many wilderness education programs have embraced the educational value of solitude and silence.

Solo often emerges as one of the most significant parts of wilderness programs, for a variety of reasons. Alone time creates a contrasting experience to normal living that enriches people mentally, physically and emotionally. As they examine themselves in relation to nature, others, and in some cases, God, people become more attuned to the important matters in their lives and in the world of which they are part.

Solo, an integral part of Outward Bound wilderness trips, can last from a few hours to 72 hours. The experience is designed to give participants an opportunity to reflect on their own thoughts and critically analyze their actions and decisions.

Solitary reflection enhances recognition and appreciation of key personal relationships, encourages reorganization of life priorities, and increases appreciation for alone time, silence, and reflection. People learn lessons they want to transfer to their daily living, because they have had the opportunity to clarify, evaluate and redirect themselves by setting goals for the future.

For some participants, time alone outdoors provides opportunity to consider the spiritual and/or religious dimension of life. Reflective time, especially in nature, often enhances spiritual awareness and makes people feel closer to God. Further, it encourages their increased faith and trust in God. This often occurs through providing ample opportunities for prayer, meditation, fasting, Scripture-reading, journaling and reflection time.

Retreating to lead

As Thomas Carlyle has written, “In (solitary) silence, great things fashion themselves together.” Whether these escapes are called alone time, solitude or Solo, it seems clear that humans experience many benefits when they retreat from the “rat race” to a place apart and gather their thoughts in quietness.

In order to live and lead effectively, it is important to be intentional about taking the time for solitary reflection. Otherwise, gaps in schedules will always fill up, and even people with the best intentions may never fully realize the life-giving value of being alone.

ooOOoo

I would modify that advice from Thomas Carlyle and that is to include a dog.

For in my experience when one is in the mood for a bit of solitary reflection your dog seems to sense it as well.

Our trip to Utah, part three

We are very close to the point of this trip.

Friday, September 27th.

As soon as we were on our way, first thing was to find a bed for the night in the area of the Capitol Reef NP. This was a popular time of the year and so many places were full. Our ‘fall-back’ position was to sleep in the truck but I really hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

Eventually we found a room for just tonight in The Flute Shop and Motel in Torrey, just 10 miles from the National Park. Run by Vance and Elaine Morrill it was more than just a motel, it was a scene of much fascination. For Vance made flutes the American Indian way.

But more of that later.

Oh, and there’s a dog story as well. Again, I’m writing that up as a separate post.

On to the Capitol Reef Park.

Or rather a pause before we descended off the heights that surrounded this part of Utah down to the park.

The pause was to take a photograph of an intense rain storm that had a spot quite close where the remnants of a rainbow could just be made out. It’s hardly visible in the above picture.

It was simply stunning.

Beyond words.

I promised you a little more about Vance Morrill and his flutes. But apart from the photograph I will delay that for a while (until the draft of the post has been approved by Vance).

Here is Jean looking at them.

Finally, Vance promised to draw some routes in the morning to some of the lesser known spots in Capitol Reef.