Hello! I’m Aisha O’Boyle, a new volunteer at Berkshire HorseWorks. Over the summer, I plan on writing blogs concerning the positive impacts horses can have on people…such as healing from mental health or behavioral disabilities and/or developing a better connection with those around you. I would like to become a resource to others, helping with their personal challenges similar to the ones with which I have dealt.
Anxiety has become an epidemic in students. A recent article published by Psychology Today states “Anxiety disorders affect 25% of teenagers, a percentage that has steadily risen over the past 30 years and is showing no sign of slowing down”(2). I have personally struggled with anxiety for the past couple of years, however, recently it has improved. I have also observed my peers dealing with similar issues. Growing up in the digital age, I understand the pressure of keeping up a positive image of yourself on social media. According to the same article mentioned above(Psychology Today), millennials on average spend “four hours a day on social media…subconsciously comparing themselves to the people they follow”(3). This large amount of time spent comparing ourselves to others then negatively impacts our self-esteem. Social media can surely have a negative impact on your life if used too often. Reducing the time you spend on social media, has not only been proven to better your mental health but also allows more free time to reconnect with your friends and family in real life.
How can horses help this anxiety epidemic? EAGALA, a program offered at Berkshire HorseWorks including both EAP(Equine Assisted Psychotherapy) and EAL(Equine Assisted Learning) is a type of therapy used as a treatment for several mental health and behavioral challenges such as autism, PTSD, addiction, ADHD, depression, anger management, and anxiety. Horse therapy, according to a growing number of mental health professionals, can be significantly more productive than talk therapy. An article published by U.S News includes statements from Leslie Roberts, a licensed professional counselor who has worked at Project Horse for almost a decade states “There are so many similarities between horses and people…horses help people identify what they’re feeling”(11). Horses can sense danger and respond with a heightened awareness of their surroundings. Therefore those suffering from an anxiety disorder may be able to feel these changes and better communicate their feelings. A similar article published by Everyday Health states “horses are more highly attuned to environmental activity and sensitive to people’s emotional states than…other animals used in assisted therapies”(5). Since humans can create such a strong bond with horses, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a very effective way of allowing people to heal from mental disorders such as anxiety in a safe and welcoming environment.