Goat Stress in Your Life?
Goats for Stress Management
Reading Time: 5 minutes
by Cora Moore Bruffy With the therapeutic benefits of goats gaining popularity, it is essential to examine how goats help with stress management. Stress is a natural part of life that we will never totally alleviate. Therefore, we must learn how to respond to and manage the stress we encounter to change our mindsets and our environments. Our animal friends enhance our lives because animals live in the present moment without worry or stress — for the most part. The presence of animals brings comfort and security to many individuals. That comfort and support naturally decrease neurotransmitters in our brains that create stress and anxiety and naturally increase our feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones. When we are calm and focused, we can generate new ideas and initiate positive social change — it starts with ourselves and our thoughts and behaviors.
We all have stress that prevents us from accomplishing our goals and achieving optimal happiness and well-being. Engaging goats by observation, petting, brushing, walking, or even cuddling can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being and a positive mindset, which leads to a better understanding of self (Parish-Plass, 2013; Fine, 2019). Using goats to help us manage stress is a chemical reaction because it helps increase our dopamine production safely and healthily (Harada et al., 2020). Every sentient being has neurotransmitters and hormones that influence mood, physical health, and how we respond to environmental stimuli. Most of the time, we seek dopamine through false sources, like with addiction. Addiction comes in many forms, and stress plays a massive role. If we are stressed, we are not getting our natural dopamine and other feel-good chemicals that help us manage stress, our lives, health, well-being, and happiness. Goats are natural stress relievers because of their very goatie nature or evolution. Goats are agile, graceful, adaptable, and grounded. In that description of goats, we see characteristics that we can emulate in our own lives to help us live our best lives (Parish-Plass, 2013; Hannah, 2018)). The best way we manage stress is by breathing and grounding. By breathing, we naturally release oxygen into our bloodstreams and body, helping to relax our bodies and calm our minds. We find our root connection to the earth’s natural energies that goats connect with so well already with grounding.
Goats, in particular, are good animals to help with stress management because goats teach us patience and grounding, and they embody the archetypal symbol of interconnectedness. Goats are good for helping with depression, and they are highly adaptable animals, which means that they can assist us with life’s troubles. Plus, goats’ ability to show us affection creates a calming and serene effect on our hearts, bodies, and minds. When stress persists, stress hormone levels (cortisol) remain elevated. Studies have shown that interacting with animals like goats can improve stress and anxiety levels and lessen depression and loneliness (Serpell, 1991; Hannah, 2018; Fine, 2019; & Harada et al., 2020). Even activities as simple as walking with a pet increase cardiovascular health and decrease triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood (Serpell, 1991; Motooka et al., 2006; Fine, 2019). Most of the studies used walking dogs as their models, and this researcher’s observation is that goats make great walking companions as well because you can train goats to walk on leads (Serpell, 1991; Motooka et al., 2006; Fine, 2019).
Goats can help with stress management by including them in yoga, Tai Chi, or mindfulness practices. Mindfulness practices are basic breathing exercises that help relax our minds and calm our bodies. At the same time, yoga and Tai Chi are physical practices that help us strengthen our mind-body connection and improve our health and happiness. Because we include the animals in all our therapeutic and educational services, we practice all three exercises as part of the goats’ therapeutic programs. Our quantitative data shows that most participants experience at least a 75% increase in mood and feelings of happiness and calmness. However, to maintain objectivity, this researcher would like to share that people experience the therapeutic benefits of animals when they already have a proclivity for animals, which creates some conflict and debate on the beneficial effects of animals when their use seems exclusive.
Nonetheless, the efficacy of animal-assisted therapy and goat therapy, in particular, is promising and gaining popularity (Serpell, 1991; Hannah, 2018; Fine, 2019; & Harada et al., 2020). As well, simple tasks such as cleaning your goats’ areas, feeding, health checks, brushing, or cuddling them are all ways that we can create not only a deeper connection to the animals but also a way to help us calm and relax so that we can take an objective view of what stresses us. Once we identify our stressors, spending time with goats helps us learn to handle them in more positive and productive ways that serve our needs and happiness.
Goats were one of the first domesticated species because of their resilience and subsistence value, and these researchers speculate for their intelligence and personalities. The presence of our animal companions, such as goats, helps us better understand the human-nature connection. Stress affects all of us, and the more we can interact with our animal friends like goats, the more we improve our health, happiness, and well-being. Goats provide us with companionship, much as dogs comfort and support us. When we work with goats, we can learn to play with life’s energies and focus on the present moment, face ourselves deep down in our unconscious mind, and learn to manifest the world in which we want to live: A world with less stress, full of compassion, respect, understanding, and, of course, goats — lots and lots of goats!
- Bamber, M., & Schneider, K. (2016). Mindfulness-based meditation to decrease stress and anxiety in college students: A narrative synthesis of the research. [Electronic version]. Educational Research Review, 1-32. https:// doi.org10.1016/j.edurev.2015.12.004
- Fine, A. (2019). Handbook on Anmal-Assisted Therapy (5th ed.). Acaddemic Press.
- Hannah, B. (2018). The Archetypal Symbolism of Animals: Lectures given at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, 1954-1958. Chiron Publications.
- Harada, T., Ishiaki, F., Nitta, Y., Miki, Y., Nomamoto, H., Hayama, M., Ito, S., Miyazaki, H., Ikedal, S.H., Iidal, T., Ando, J., Kobayashi, M., Makoto, I., Sugawara, T., Nakabeppu, K., & Nitta, K. (2020). Relationship between the Characteristics of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Patients. International Medical Journal 27(5), pp. 620 – 624.
- Motooka, M., Koike, H., Yokoyama, T., & N.L. Kennedy. (2006). Effect of dog-walking on autonomic nervous system activity in senior citizens. Medical Journal of Australia, 184, 60-63. http://doi.org10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00116.x.
- Parish-Plass, N. (2013). Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy: Theories, Issues, and Practice. Purdue University Press.
- Serpell, J.M. (1991). Beneficial effects of pet ownership on some aspects of human health and behaviour. .Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 84, 717-720. https://doi.org10.1177/014107689108401208.
Cora Moore-Bruffy does goat animal-assisted therapy and animal education in addition to being a college professor. She earned a MA in History and Culture focusing on Archaeology and is working on a Ph.D. in General Psychology with a focus on mindfulness and animal therapy. She is certified in psychology, child psychology, pet psychology, pet nutrition, pet first aid, and FEMA’s Animal Disaster Management. In addition to working with animals, she teaches Psychology, Archaeology/Anthropology to American History, World History, Contemporary History, Cultural Diversity, Sociology, and Philosophy. She has worked with many Native American groups on social and environmental justice issues and with many different groups worldwide with preservation and cultural diversity issues.
She lives outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband at Faeryland’s Farm. Catch the goats and other animals on Facebook, their website, or watch videos on YouTube.
Faerylands FarmYoutube Channel
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.