Unconditional Love (Dogs!)

Pets + Retirees… They Go Together!

dog-2729805_1280_gdjHappy Valentine’s Day to all of my readers. I could not think of a better way to “celebrate” our appreciation of “heart-day” with reflections on what our pets bring us… adulation, affection, attachment, companionship, devotion, enjoyment, good will, involvement, passion, stimulation, tenderness, understanding…

“The power of love!” They say that all you have to do is look at the face of a sleeping baby, or cuddle up next to a puppy or kitten, and it will slow down your respiration rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, and increase in your body the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurochemicals that play big roles in the promoting feelings of calm and well-being.

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From personal experience, having two of the most adorable and loving dogs… If you’re contemplating retirement and you have never owned a pet, let me be the first to tell you:

“Pets can change your life.”

I invite you to peruse several other blogs I’ve written on this subject:

If you are almost ready to retire, or you’re going through your first couple years of your post-employment “internship,” there’s a good chance that psychologically it would be good for you to “get out of Dodge” as you adjust to your new status. This might be a good time for you to take a cruise, tour Europe, go ice fishing up north, or plan a long road trip out west. Pack up everything and takeoff. Celebrate all those years that you put your nose to the grind stone.

But eventually, you may want to come back “to nest,” and “taste” a little transitioning into things that seem to go well together, e.g. small doses of (human) babysitting, grandparent/child interaction, and/or rescuing a pet. Becoming a homebody may also suggest the consideration of planning small or large renovation projects: fix up your garden or backyard, design your ideal kitchen, remodel the bathrooms, do a garage remake, downsize and de-clutter, etc. After the first several years of simply resting and exploring the options of your self-reinvention, NOW might be the perfect moment to add a furry friend to your family!

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Why get a pet?

Goodnet (“Gateway to Doing Good”) summarizes nine reasons you should adopt a pet:

  1. Pets have their perks when it comes to your health. (More on that later.)
  2. A pet will love you unconditionally. (Thus the title of this blog!)
  3. Adopting a pet is easy on your wallet. (Pet rescue from a shelter is less expensive.)
  4. Adopting a pet means saving a life. (Millions of animals are euthanized per year.)
  5. By adopting a pet, you’re giving an animal a second chance. (Another go at life!)
  6. Pets keep you active. (Dog walking provides owner aerobic exercise.)
  7. Pets bring joy and fulfillment. (Pet care enhances a sense of purpose for retirees.)
  8. dog-3243734_1920_kandykandooPets boost your social life. (Research indicates pets decrease social isolation.)
  9. Besides, how could you possibly resist this face?

 

Medical benefits including psychological health

There’s an avalanche of online research that backs up claims that pet ownership is actually “good for you!”

Pet owners know how much their furry friend improves their quality of life. But it’s not all about unconditional love—although that actually provides a wellness boost, too. On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety; health-wise, it can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity, and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.

— Alexandra Gekas

 

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Here are my “top dozen” reasons and resources to peruse:

  1. Having a pet decreases stress: Promises Treatment Centers
  2. Caring for a pet lowers your blood pressure: WebMD
  3. Owning a dog reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels: Harvard
  4. Pets keep you fit and active: Gerontologist
  5. Daily dog walking helps you to lose weight: Healthy People
  6. Owning a dog can help detect, treat, and manage disease and injuries: HuffPost
  7. Pet therapy eases pain management and reduces anxiety: Loyola University
  8. Pets may reduce doctor’s visits: American Psychological Association PsycNet
  9. Having a dog may make you (at least feel) safer: LifeHack
  10. Pets help you build friendships and find social support: Harvard
  11. Dog owners are less prone to depression: GrandParents.com
  12. Pet ownership adds meaning and purpose: BestFriends

 

Believe it or not, pets can be the best medicine, especially when a person is dealing with chronic pain such as migraines or arthritis. Just like Valium, it reduces anxiety. The less anxiety, the less pain…

People who have pets are less harried; there’s more laughter in their life. When you come home, it’s like you’re George Clooney. You’re a star. This is a primary reason pets are used in various forms of therapy.

If you have a dog around, your blood pressure is lower. A lot of it goes back to reducing stress: You might lose your job, your house, your 401(k)—but you’ll never lose the unconditional love of your pet.

— Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, veterinary consultant for Good Morning America and author of the book Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual.

 

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Increasing your regular habits of exercise

The experts say that physical activity promotes flexibility, muscle strength, stamina, and balance, and helps us to remain mobile into our 70s and 80s. Caring for a pet may help! For example, studies from the National Center for Biotechnology of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (like this one) indicate that older adults who walked dogs with frequent moderate to vigorous exercise are associated with lower body mass index and faced fewer limitations to their daily living activities.

Having trouble sticking to an exercise program? Research shows that dogs are actually Nature’s perfect personal trainers—loyal, hardworking, energetic and enthusiastic. And, unlike your friends, who may skip an exercise session because of appointments, extra chores or bad weather, dogs never give you an excuse to forego exercising.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that only 16 percent of Americans ages 15 and older exercised at all on an average day! This is where your canine personal trainer can help.

—Dawn Marcus

walking-2797219_1280_mohamed_hassanHow much exercise is enough? Well, according to the World Health Organization, the “best practices” of a good health and wellness program includes:

  • 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily for children 5 to 17 years old
  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week for adults 18 to 65 years old, plus strengthening exercises two days per week
  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week, with modifications as needed in seniors over 65 years old, plus flexibility and balance exercises.

The good news? From Bark, “Researchers at the University of Western Australia found that seven in every 10 adult dog owners achieved 150 minutes of physical exercise per week, compared with only four in every 10 non-owners.” We already know that grabbing that leash, whistling for the pup, going for a brisk walk, and getting out to see what’s going on in your neighborhood, may help to reduce stress, depression, lethargy, the risks of obesity, and many other medical problems.

 

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The all-essential quest for “mattering” and “feeling needed”

In the past blog “Retiree Concepts,” I mentioned the book, Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose by Nancy Schlossberg (definitely an excellent buy), and reviewed the issues of “marginality” (bad) and “mattering” (good). The essential question is worth repeating here: “Do you feel “needed” and that you “make a difference” to others?”

Caring for a pet does a great job of fulfilling our need to find in our retired lives the “purpose, community, and structure” referred to Ernie Zelinski in his book, How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free.

As we grow older—especially after we retire—it can be difficult to find structure and meaning day in and day out. Dogs take care of that.

— Kristen Sturt

They force people to continue to do things. So, even if you’re not feeling well emotionally or physically, the dog doesn’t care. I mean, they care, but they still want you to feed them and take them for a walk.”

— Kristi Littrell, Adoption Manager at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah

At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, they’re using dogs to help soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re finding the guys who have a pet are able to re-enter society a little bit easier. They’re showing a decreased suicide rate, one of the biggest health threats [veterans] face. These guys who have a pet have someone they’re responsible for, someone who cares about them. And they don’t have to explain what they’ve been through.

— Dr. Katy Nelson, associate emergency veterinarian at the VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia

 

It’s not only about the tangibles – physical, medical, mental

It’s simple… every day, my pooches make me feel good!

Oh, we have all witnessed the “life-changing power of pets” (Psychology Today) and the tremendous social bond partnering a dog (or cat) with a human. We agree, “Pet owners have big hearts and bestow good feelings on both animals and people. Having a pet does not replace a human social network, but rather enhances and enlarges it. Cats, dogs, birds—and pets of all species, shapes, and sizes—bring wellness.”

our two pups 051216 - 1On personal observation, I can attest that walking my dogs in the neighborhood can be one of the most contemplative (almost meditative) experiences of the day. I commune with nature, let my imagination wander (dream “wide-awake”), notice things I have never before stopped to see, hear, or smell, and reflect on my life goals. I find the “pause” in my daily routine (or should I say “paws”) makes me feel refreshed, thoughtful, more calm, tolerant, and patient while at the same time more alert and focused, and always leaves me in a better mood.

Dr. John V. DiAscenzo, my talented friend and PMEA music education colleague with great background in research, would now demand of me, “Show me the specific studies that support your claim that walking dogs make people feel happy!” Got it! I found numerous references, including this article from the National Institutes of Health.

 

You can’t buy this kind of shared love… a snapshot

  • No matter how good or bad my day is, the moment of my return to home, stepping into “puppy heaven,” Gracie and Brewster rushing up in full gallop to lick (kiss) and welcome me, jumping up as if to say, “Oh, we’re so glad he’s back!”
  • The vigorous wagging of her tail and the “happy dance” Gracie does when I reach for her favorite bone
  • The “nesting” impulse of Brewster as he paws his towel on top of our bed, just before he curls up in a small ball, leaning into the small of my back (giving me great lumbar support) and falling asleep
  • Gracie pushing Brewster out of the way when jockeying position to receive pats on the head from a visitor
  • canine club 2Expert cuddlier Brewster flipping on his back so you rub his tummy, and when you are distracted, gently pawing at you begging you not to stop
  • Gracie’s “happy barks” and squeals of excitement when mommy brings in the supper dish
  • Gracie jumping up onto the extra desk chair to watch daddy type on his computer (we even had to buy her own chair)
  • Brewster winning a contest for the most puppy-pushups (up/sit/down) in dog (people) training classes
  • Having totally original “dog-o-nalities” and never failing to amaze me every day, being awakened by them at 6 a.m.
  • But, after going out, all three of us climbing into the La-Z-Boy® combo recliners and falling back to sleep, Gracie between my legs with her chin on my ankle, and Brewster on my left shoulder like a violin shoulder pad

 

Lowering the numbers of neglected pets in overcrowded sanctuaries

Finally, although perhaps not the most significant rationale for a retiree to go rescue a pet, these are estimated animal shelter statistics from the ASPCA and the American Pet Products Association (source):

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
  • pit-bull-2047469_1920_rescuewarriorApproximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).
  • About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.
  • It’s estimated that 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 44% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 35% have a cat.
  • According to the APPA, these are the most common sources from which primary methods cats and dogs are obtained as pets:

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LiveScience posted “A Blueprint for Ending the Euthanasia of Healthy Animals.”

Do you have Kleenex handy? Read “10 Shelter Stories That Will Make you Smile.”

Simply put, if you have it in you to consider pet adoption, your action will probably save the life of a sheltered animal and give it (and you) a second chance!

 

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Additional resources

Do you need more research? Be sure to visit the final link in the bulleted list below, which also has an exhaustive bibliography worth viewing.

 

CODA: The “‘last words” as a recap and a final website for you to check out:

Studies have shown that owning a pet can be physically and mentally beneficial for people of all ages. In the case of senior citizens, just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.

— Seniors and Pets

But, you knew all about this, right? So, what are you waiting for?

For me, I gotta go… and take Gracie and Brewster out for another walk!

Have a Happy PET Valentine’s Day!

PKF

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© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

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Besides the numerous pictures of Gracie and Brewster, photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “puppies” by kko699, “dog” by GDJ, “people” by Herney, “animals” by Gellinger, “dog” by kandykandoo, “dog” by maja7777, “walking” by mohamed_hassan, “dog” by haidi2002, “pit-bull” by RescueWarrior, “dog” by groesswang, “kitten” by creades, “pretty-girl” by TerriC, and “dog” by Leunert,

 

 

Body Language & Interviewing for a Job

More Sources to Prep You to Make a Good Impression at Employment Screenings

If you have been closely following this section of the https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com blog-site on “Marketing Professionalism,” you have consumed a lot of advice on numerous topics for preparing for the job search, developing your personal brand, and especially “conquering” employment interviews, such as:

body-language-3-1240767This article’s focus will be on the seemingly intangible… “body language!” Many say that during the interview, first impressions are critical — “the first ten seconds will create the interviewer’s first judgments about you, and then after four minutes, it’s all over.” The research also suggests that during the interview, the evaluation of your merit is based 7% on what you say, 38% on your voice or how you say it, and 55% on our facial expressions and non-verbal cues.

A good starting point to the introduction of “nonverbal communication” was posted by Jonathan Burston in his Interview Expert Academy website: http://www.interviewexpertacademy.com/body-language-the-3c-triangle/:

Using a triangle to symbolize his concepts, the “3Cs of Body Language” are:

  • Context of the situation/environment you are in… with friends (relaxed) or the boss (more stressed)
  • Clusters or groups of body language signals that you give off unconsciously
  • Congruence or links between what the person is saying, the tone of their voice, and the signals their body is giving off

He summarizes, “The 3C Triangle will help you understand the core parts of reading body language. Next time you’re with someone, either a friend, family member, work colleague or an interviewer, remember to use the 3C’s. Keep practicing.”

Probably one of the most unique presentations on this subject is a TED talk filmed in 2012: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy. Check out the transcript at http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are/transcript?language=en.

“Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.”

Although some of her findings referenced in her talk are an ongoing debate among social scientists, Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we may be able to change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — by simply changing body positions.

body-language-6-1240752Some of Cuddy’s assertions:

  • “When we think about nonverbal behavior, or body language — but we call it nonverbals as social scientists – it’s language, so we think about communication. When we think about communication, we think about interactions.”
  • “What are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance? …In the animal kingdom, they are about expanding. So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space, you’re basically opening up.”
  • “What do we do when we feel powerless? We do exactly the opposite. We close up. We wrap ourselves up. We make ourselves small. We don’t want to bump into the person next to us.”
  • “We know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds? And when I say minds, in the case of the powerful, what am I talking about? …I’m talking about thoughts and feelings and the sort of physiological things that make up our thoughts and feelings, and in my case, that’s hormones.”
  • “Powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel they’re going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to think more abstractly…They take more risks.”
  • “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes… Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors… Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.”

From Monster website, a very comprehensive article worth reviewing is “Body Language Can Make or Break a Job Interview” by Robert Ordona at https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/body-language-can-make-or-break-a-job-interview-hot-jobs. He cites several body language experts. “You could be saying how great you are, but your body could be giving your true feelings away,” says Alison Craig, image consultant and author of Hello Job! How to Psych Up, Suit Up, & Show Up. Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language, agrees with Craig – and with the highly regarded Mehrabian communication study, which found that “if what’s coming out of your mouth doesn’t match what your body is saying, your audience is more likely to believe your body.”

Ordona’s blog-post sections provide the “nitty-gritty” of nonverbal communications:

  • Your “Great Entrance”
  • Showing your “good side”
  • First impressions
  • Handshakes
  • The walk to the interview
  • At the interview
  • The art of departing

Excerpts from Craig, Bowden, and Ordona’s work, here is a “top-ten list” of body language do’s (green) and don’ts (red):

  1. Be aware that the interview may start in the parking lot… you never know who may be observing you from a window or standing near you in the hallway. Regardless how you feel (inside yourself), model an attitude of outward calm, purpose, and confidence. This is no time to be frantically searching for your copies of your resume.
  2. The receptionist or secretary in the office may be informally assessing you (and the administrator may ask their opinion), so let them “observe you without letting on that you know they are watching.” Whenever possible, sit at right angles or offer your profile to them. “It makes them feel comfortable, and if they’re comfortable, they’re more likely to form a good impression.”
  3. While waiting, sit with good posture, back straight, and your chest open – additional signs you are “confident and assertive.” Don’t hunch your shoulders or tuck your chin into your chest, which may imply you are “closed off.” Don’t try to appear to comfortable or informal, for example “elongating your legs or throwing your arm across the back of the chair,” as it might make you look arrogant.
  4. If you can tell, try facing the direction from where the interviewer will come; “it’ll make the greeting more graceful.” Also, “don’t have so much stuff on your lap that you’re clumsily moving everything aside when you’re called.”
  5. body-language-5-1240757Practice handshaking with a friend before taking interviews. Avoid “the overly aggressive or death grip” as well as “the limp handshake.” Since you are going to shake with your right hand, arrange your belongings on your left side. “Offer your hand with you palm slightly up so that your interviewer’s hand covers yours,” a sign that “you’re giving them status.”
  6. Even the walk to the interview room is the perfect to time to use good body language: follow the hiring manager or assistant “to show you understand the protocol” (“I follow your lead”), mirroring that person’s tempo and demeanor, showing “you can easily fit into the environment.”
  7. Once in the interview room, it’s okay to place a slim portfolio on the table, “especially if you’ll be presenting its contents,” but place your other belongings on the floor beside you. “Holding a briefcase or handbag on your lap will make you seem as though you’re trying to create a barrier around yourself.” Again, it is recommended you sit a slight angle to offer your profile, avoiding creating a defensive barrier.
  8. Sit up straight and display your neck, chest, and stomach area, a signal to the interviewer that you’re open. “Avoid leaning forward, which makes you appear closed off.”
  9. Sit about a foot away from the table and keep hand gestures at a level above the desk (or slightly lower) and below your collarbone. Your goal is to communicate that “you’re centered, controlled, and calm – and that you want to help.”
  10. The final advice at the end of interview: “Gather your belongings calmly, rise smoothly, smile, and nod your head. If shaking hands with everyone in the room isn’t convenient, at least shake hands with the hiring manager and the person who brought you to the interview space.”

Another interesting online resource is Forbes, “10 Body Language Interview Mistakes” at http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lml45lide/10-body-language-interview-mistakes-2/#76cf48105767. Eleven slides illustrate suggestions about eye contact, the way you fix your hair, crossing your arms, and other “physical slip-ups in your next interview.”

Finally, Yohana Desta offers “9 Simple Body Language Tips for Your Next Job Interview” on Mashable at http://mashable.com/2014/11/17/body-language-job-interview/#UZoXdE1FEsqB.

“Job interviews are notorious tightrope walks. You want to be confident, but not obnoxious; intelligent but not a know-it-all. Trying to find a balance and also explain why you deserve a job is hard enough. But what if your body language could help you out?” – Yohana Desta

body-language-8-1240743Although “the experts” are not always in consensus, especially on the subjects of eye contact and leaning posture, Desta’s tips summarized below provide additional enlightenment on how to use body language to promote a positive image:

  1. Sit all the way back in your seat.
  2. Don’t go for direct eye contact.
  3. Use hand gestures while speaking.
  4. Show your palms.
  5. Plant your feet on the ground.
  6. Work on your walk.
  7. Nod your head while listening.
  8. Lean in.

In a challenging job market with limited openings for public/private school music educators in many geographical areas of the country, there is great competition in the screening and evaluation of the applicants. Hopefully these suggestions from “the experts on body language” will help you better prepare for employment interviews… and land that job you always wanted!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Picture credits: Photographers John Evans and Henk L. at http://www.freeimages.com