By Christina Strayer, Ed.D., LCMHCS, AAT-I, CCTP, THTC, CYT-200, LCAS-R,
In these challenging times, it is important to find enjoyment in your life. There are many ways to foster self-healing and play is one of them, especially with our animals (assuming they enjoy it also!). Animals can be healers too! Play with our animals is empowering for many reasons such as:
We express ourselves creatively and this is a type of self- care, even self- love.
We increases our bond with our animals by practicing something new and novel.
Play can stimulate the brain, which can help with stress, sadness, and anxiety.
Play can be a much-needed break for our mind and body!
I recommend trying to incorporate play with your animal daily, even if it is just a few minutes to help find emotional/physical balance in your day.
Here are a few ideas for you to incorporate play with your animal if they enjoy it and there are no physical limitations for you. Look for your
animal’s stress signals and allow your animal to stop if need be. It can take practice to find an activity you both enjoy and are comfortable with. My rescue animals each have a favorite activity with me. My bulldog is very engaged when I do a breathing activity with him, he is not a fan of active play! My puppy loves to play chase around the house and hide and go seek!
- Play ball-either throwing the ball or rolling it to your animal. (My birds love for me to roll balls to them!) Remember, this is play, it is okay if your animals do not respond at first. They may not like the activity or they may need you to demonstrate it to them a few times, just enjoy!
- Bubble play-You can order flavored bubbles specifically for animals on Amazon. Just blow them and move around! Dogs especially love this plus you are accessing mindful breathing!
- Dance/Movement/Play-Experiment with the type of music your animal seems to enjoy. Maybe try something with a beat sometimes and then alternate with calming music and movements another time. Even my bulldog, who does not like to move, will wag his tail and enjoy this activity!
There are so many more ways to play with and in the presence of your animal that you both can benefit from! I have noticed my daily play
practice has lightened my mood, my animals engage with me more and vice versa! I manage stress better. I also assign homework for clients to incorporate at home with their animals.
Over the years, I have heard positive feedback of the mental and physical benefits of play! Enjoy your play with your animal and if you would like to see live demonstrations soon, watch this page for my special upcoming Webinar with me and my tribe playing! I would love for you to tune in with your animal and if you do not have one or more, please join anyway! Research shows play is beneficial without an animal too! Take care and have fun!
Dr. Christina Strayer, Ed.D., LCMHCS, AAT-I, CCTP, THTC, CYT-200, LCAS-R is a Licensed Mental Health Clinician Supervisor and Animal- Assisted Interventionist at her private practice, Animal Assisted Therapy of the Triangle in North Carolina and an online practitioner with
SmartCounseling.com. If you reside in North Carolina and would like to receive online counseling services from Dr. Strayer, visit www.smartcounseling.com/docstrayer. If you reside outside North Carolina and would like to connect with a licensed counselor online today, visit www.smartcounseling.com to get started today! www.animalassistedtherapyofthetriangle.com