This Adorable Dutch Practice Is Set to Become the Newest Wellness Trend

When most people think about health trends, they picture things like unpleasant diets or intense exercise classes. However, one of the most exciting new wellness trends lately is actually something extremely adorable. A fun Dutch trend called Koe Knuffelen promises to reduce stress and improve overall health. Here's what you need to know about it.

Cow Hugging Takes Of Throughout the Netherlands

The latest wellness trend taking off throughout Europe is Koe Knuffelen, which translates to "Cow Hugging." This Dutch practice involves finding a napping cow and curling up to lean against it for a few hours. In the Netherlands, it is a popular activity done alongside country visits and tours of farms. Supporters of this bovine snuggle call it incredibly relaxing. Cows have a naturally warmer body temperature and slower heartbeat than humans, so leaning against them helps you relax into a deep, meditative state.

Whether you spend your cow hugging time napping with a furry friend or just enjoying the farmland around you, it can be a transformative experience. Cow cuddling is also great for the cows too. A 2007 study found that cows are deeply social animals that respond positively to having people scratch their ears, massage their neck, and rub their back. Having friendly people around to cuddle them can improve quality of life for dairy cows.

Cow cuddling has been popular in the Netherlands for over a decade now, but in the past few months, it has been picking up speed elsewhere. Farms in Europe have started to offer cow cuddling as an activity for visitors, and even a few spots in the United States are opening up cow cuddling tours. As the trend gets more attention, you can expect to see more spots offering cow cuddling near you soon!

Health Benefits of Cow Hugging

So why is cow hugging a wellness trend instead of just being a quirky way of enjoying your weekend? This wholesome activity is primarily a way of increasing your mental health. With record-high numbers of depression and anxiety during COVID, now is the perfect time to be prioritizing your mental health. Countless studies have shown that spending time with animals and appreciating nature can protect you from developing mental health disorders.

Improving your mental wellness also has a big impact on your physical health. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone linked to the "fight or flight" response. This causes higher blood pressure and a surge in your adrenal gland. Chronically high levels of cortisol can cause digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, weight gain, heart disease, and other major health problems. Meanwhile, the hormone released by cow cuddling has the opposite effect. Those who cuddle cows end up with higher levels of oxytocin, a hormone linked to relaxation and happiness. As cow cuddling boosts oxytocin and lowers cortisol, you end up with better sleep, lower inflammation levels, better digestion, and reduced heart problems.

Can You Get These Perks Without Visiting a Farm?

Of course cow hugging might sound awesome, but for those living in a more urban environment, it might be a little tricky to find a friendly cow. The good news is that a few simple and easily accessible practices provide a lot of the same perks. Recent studies have found that spending time with any sort of animal is linked to lower levels of mental health problems. You get the most health benefits from actually owning an animal, since it gives you constant companionship and a sense of purpose. However, just spending time with a furry friend can boost oxytocin levels and calm stress. If you are not ready for pet ownership yet, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter.

Cow hugging is also effective because it encourages mindfulness and time spent outdoors. Relax into the meditative state induced by cow hugging by taking a little time to simply be in the moment. Turn off screens, find a comfortable place to sit, and practice breathing exercises for around 10 minutes. Studies have found this can refresh the mind just as much as a nap. Research has also linked time spent outside to better mental health, lower stress, and even improved heart health. Try to find a green space, like a park or even your own backyard. Spending time among nature and plants has an instantly calming effect.

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