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Chill Out Dogs! My Powerful, Personal Relaxation Video Experience

May 16, 2019

Forget the dog days of summer – it’s the damp, dreary days of winter that have proven to be the toughest this year.  In my home state of North Carolina, winter storms brought more snow, rain and ice than we’ve seen in over a decade.  For my dogs Hailey and River, it meant an inordinate amount of time indoors, cut off from their daily walks and visits with neighborhood doggy friends. 

My husband and I tried to engage them in indoor play and exercise, but were met with little success. Our small home limited their movement and the environment lacked new stimuli to excite their senses. As the days passed, they grew weary and refused to play along, resigning themselves to extended naps each day on the sofa. 

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One afternoon, a brutal storm brought a burst of intense thunder and lightning, knocking out our power.  I lit a candle and went to check on the dogs. To my dismay, I found the canine couch potatoes in a stupor on the sofa. I braced myself for their reactions as I pulled a handful of dog treats out of my pocket and reached for a squeaky toy.  Although their eyes were open and following my movements they remained perfectly still. 

This was bad.  They were losing hope. 

I fought the urge to cry.  I had to do something to help them cope.  But what?  

I found the answer at work the following day.  As Client Outcomes Managers for hospitals with interactive television systems, my team met to learn more about our new relaxation video content package. During the meeting, we spoke at length about the gamut of stressful feelings and experiences a patient can have during a hospitalization.  These can include disconnection from daily routines and relationships, feelings of isolation, the stress of confinement, and the fear of the unknown, just to name a few.  

Next, we spoke about the growing evidence base around relaxation content in combatting the effects of stress. Nature scenery videos, guided imagery, and sleep programming has helped hospitals improve the patient experience by reducing anxiety, easing pain and discomfort, masking noise, and improving sleep. Several studies even point to measurable improvements in clinical outcomes.  I wondered, given the similar circumstances, if there were relaxation videos for stressed out dogs – and if the results could be just as powerful?  

A quick internet search revealed that indeed, there is relaxation programming for dogs!  I signed up for a trial of a streaming service.  The following morning, we humans turned on the television. A group of happy puppies raced across the TV screen, then pounced on the other rolled into a furry ball of puppy cuteness.  My husband and I could hear playful whines and happy panting over the cheery instrumental music.  Hailey and River could hear it too.  Both of them perked up, focusing their attention on the puppies on TV.  We could hardly believe it.  They were watching!  

Throughout the day, we saw dogs on TV running through the woods, riding in cars, playing with children, and swimming in lakes. We heard squeaky toys and chirping birds and an occasional human voiceover: “Good dog!” Hailey and River watched intently.  Sometimes they cocked their heads or wagged their tails.  More than once, they moved around the living room to change their viewing angle.  A few times they even peeked behind the TV to see where all those dogs on the screen were coming from – with the hopes of escaping to whatever sunnier, happier place where they lived, I’m sure.  

In lieu of being able to do that, they at least seemed content where they were.  They had something new and exciting to stimulate their minds. It was a welcome respite from the dreary winter weather and the four walls of our living room.  The excitement even led them to play with each other throughout the day, which quickly tired them out. The dogs did manage to save their naps for the lullaby segments of the programming, which always seemed to come at just the right time.  

Relaxation programming was just what they needed.  It carried them through the rest of the winter in much better spirits.  Even though spring is here and life is back to normal, I’ve kept the subscription to doggie relaxation content and still play it for them regularly. I shared the story and some pictures of my TV-watching pooches with my work team.  

“Just think,” I told them, “If this is what TV and relaxation content can do for stressed out pets, imagine what it can do for hospitalized patients, who are dealing with one of the most stressful events of their lives?”  My nurse colleague Claire shared that her interest was piqued as well.  We did a literature search on the topic of hospitalization-related stress and various approaches to in-patient relaxation therapies. After reviewing dozens of current sources, and interviewing some of our hospital clients, we summarized our key findings in a white paper: Reducing Hospitalization-Related Stress.                                

Reducing Hospitalization cover

Before my personal experience with relaxation videos at home, I was merely a believer.  Now I am a champion, and I am excited about helping hospitals implement this approach for their patients.  With television already woven into our daily lives as our go-to source for distraction and entertainment, the patient’s in-room TV is a natural fit for relaxation therapy. It makes sense that in times of discomfort or stress, the right kind of television programming can help to distract us, put us at ease, or feel more stimulated within our surroundings.  

Perhaps television relaxation content can even do for some patients what it did for my dogs.  After just a few days of exposure to relaxation programming, River and Hailey were coping better with their current circumstances. In the face of uncertainty they could literally see beyond the storms; they were hopeful that the sun would come out again.  

And hope can go an especially long way when facing the unknown. 

About the Author
Amy Mora joined the TeleHealth Services family in 2014 as a Client Outcomes Manager. Her 24+ years of healthcare experience includes working as the patient education coordinator for a large healthcare system in North Carolina. Amy is also the author of Nursing Novellas, an educational fiction series of stories about interpersonal issues impacting the healthcare workforce. She has an extensive academic background in health behavior, health education, and health administration, and is a LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt and a former EMT-Intermediate. Amy is excited about supporting her hospital clients in their efforts to create better patient experiences and health outcomes. 

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Preview relaxation content for hospital patients at: telehealthrelaxation.com