Is the cure for the coronavirus worse than the disease?
Millions of Americans and people around the world are now stuck at home. Why? Well, either the local, state or national government has dictated that folks “shelter in place”, or simply the threat of catching a virus that has infected nearly half a million people, and stands to kill nearly that many according to many predictions, is enough to keep us isolated.
But for many of us, social distancing and being isolated, whether completely alone or with our “loved” ones, possess its own risks that we have to be careful of. Studies have shown that long term isolation can exacerbate mental health issues like depression, anxiety and insomnia. More surprisingly, a lack of social interaction has even been shown to increase mortality and other adverse effects of physical health problems, like heart disease. Add to that the fact that being quarantined is preventing a lot of us from getting the exercise we need.
So what can we do?
Well, here is a thought. Make friends with a sloth
Here are some survival lessons we can learn from sloths:
Taking things slow!
Sloths are known for being incredibly slow. They only move about 40 yards a day (less than the distance of half a football field!). What is the benefit of this? Well, mainly this allows them to preserve energy, not using calories, and so they can eat less. Don’t you wish you could eat less?
Getting enough sleep.
Sloths sleep for about up to 18 hours a day. Twice as much as humans (8 hours a day, if we’re lucky), and for what makes up 60-70% of the entire day. Sloths do this to preserve energy. The leaves that they eat are not easily converted into and so whatever precious calories they have need to be used for essential body functions.
Now, maybe sleeping for nearly 18 hours a day isn’t reasonable for us humans, but we should learn a lesson from the sloths to make sure we get the sleep our bodies need.
Benefits of interacting with a Sloth:
Many of us have pets. In the U.S. almost 70% of all households include both humans and animals. Throughout history dogs were kept as companions because they could help in hunting and would keep threats away from home. Cats as pets haven’t always been common, but they have served as a way to keep mice and other pests away from homes and farms.
But most of us don’t hunt or have farms these days, and we probably don’t rely on our pets for pest control. So, why do we keep animals around?
Studies have shown that the presence of animals lowers our level of cortisol, the hormone associated with the feelings we have of stress and some of the negative effects of high stress. Scientists don’t have a precise explanation for why this is, but anyone who has pets knows that getting some attention from our animal buddies always makes us feel better. We’d have to think that if we had a sloth buddy the effect would be the same.
An article written by Lawernce Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. detailed some of the many amazing effects of having a pet. Among these are lower frequency or intensity of depression, anxiety, and heart disease, likely due to the decreased levels of cholesterol and increased level of dopamine and serotonin. Also less frequent for pet owners are trips to the doctor. A study has shown that people over the age of 65 made 30% less trips to the doctor (though probably more trips to the veterinarian, but that’s okay.) While the article focuses on traditional pets (dogs and cats) the authors did state that other types of animals (sloths 🤔😉 ) would likely bring similar benefits.
The Fight Against Loneliness
Many of us are separated from our friends and family in these times, and some of us are totally alone. While the Covid-19 crisis will hopefully end soon (maybe you are reading this article in that bright future) it’s easy to imagine that the need of social distancing and self-isolation might happen again.
While initially some of us delighted in having more time to spend watching series, reading books, and playing games, the dread of being alone has set in for a lot of us, but not for those of us who share our homes with an animal. We have someone to talk to (even if they don’t understand us, or even really listen) and someone who needs our love and attention. We can play with our pets and just observe them to get our minds off of the other things going on that don’t make us happy.
Sloths aren’t as social as dogs, or even as cats (can you believe that?!?), but having a sloth around might be a way to combat the loneliness that we face when we have to be stuck in our homes for days, weeks, months….
Keeping a routine
One of the most popular recommendations for maintaining mental health during our shelter at home periods is keeping a routine. Columbia University released a piece detailing this idea. The basic idea from the author is that although we cannot control much of our lives these days, we can decide what we do throughout the day, creating a regular schedule that keeps us busy. Having an animal to take care of assures that we have things to keep us busy:
Taking our animal friend outside (if possible)
Cleaning our animal’s habitat
Checking on our animal’s health according to veterinarians recommendations
Playtime with our pet
If you have read our article on owning a sloth, you know that they require very special care, so that should always be a part of your routine. However, if you have read that article, you’ll also know that having a sloth as a pet is not a good idea, no matter how much we wish we had one. So, instead we have 3 recommendations:
- Buy an adorable stuffed sloth from our shop.
- Start planning your trip to visit sloths sanctuaries.
- Watch some of the best sloth videos online!
Stay safe out there!