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  • Jenna Sindle

Spending Time in Nature and with Pets Helps Teens Build Resilience and Mental Wellness

Study after study has shown that spending time in nature and with the family pets can help teens build resilience and have a positive impact on their mental wellness. In this month’s news roundup we’ll take a look at three news stories that explore the connection between nature, animals, and mental wellness.

NIH Explores the Power of Pets

There is nothing better than being greeted at the door after a long day of school (or work) by the family pet - whether that’s a furry, feathered, or even scaled friend. But have you ever wondered why their welcome home and their presence in our lives brings such comfort? 

For over 15 years the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Mars Corporation WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition have been studying the benefits of the human-pet connection and even possibly identifying which pets bring the most benefit.

You can read more about their work here

Get Outside! It Will Nurture Feelings of Well Being

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and spend time in nature. But it turns out that spending time outdoors at any time of year will have a positive impact on your mental well being.

There’s mounting evidence that whether you go for a walk around your neighborhood or head to the mountains for some forest bathing, time spent outdoors boosts mood. Shared Lisa Nesbit, Ph.D. a psychologist at Trent University in Canada, “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”

Next up, researchers want to study the impact of blue spaces - oceans, rivers, and lakes on mental wellness. You can read more about the mind-nature connection here

Taking Your Dog for a Walk Improves Your Mental Health and Your Pup’s

If connecting your pet improves mental well being and walking outside improves mental well being, then taking your dog for a walk must be a sure-fire way to take care of your mental health. An added benefit is that taking your dog for a walk will also improve its mental well being. 

Benefits of dog walking include:

  • Reducing loneliness

  • Boosting connection

  • Reducing anxiety

Not every family is able to have a dog, or another pet to connect with can find that opportunity at local animal shelters. Loudoun County Animal Shelter has volunteer opportunities for 16 year olds and a volunteer apprentice program for ages 10-15 year olds to volunteer with a parent. As well as walking dogs, volunteers who like quieter connections can also read with a shelter resident. You can learn more about these opportunities here.


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