10/27/2014 11:05 am ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

5 Ways Pets Help Us Thrive: My Interview With Arianna Huffington

Zoom Pet Photography via Getty Images

It's not everyday I have the opportunity to meet a media-mogul -- let alone one who loves animals and values their contributions to our lives.

So I was over-the-moon excited when I was granted an interview with The Huffington Post founder, president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington. I spoke with her about her latest book, Thrive, following her presentation to a standing-room-only crowd at the AARP Ideas@50+ Expo in San Diego last month.

As a pet living advocate, I'm always searching for unique and interesting perspectives to share about how animals manage to effortlessly better our lives. Learning how pets can contribute to our personal paths to success was intriguing.

In her New York Times best selling book, Ms. Huffington shares the moment she realized that our current definition of success is inadequate. What's missing, she explains, is "The Third Metric" -- a measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power. The Third Metric consists of four pillars, including well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Reading the book (with my cat, Olivia firmly planted in my lap), I was delighted to discover an entire section of the book dedicated to pets, "(Furry) Friends with (Different) Benefits." What luck to learn that my first media mogul interview would be with a fellow pet advocate!

During more research in advance of meeting Ms. Huffington, I found a lovely post she wrote, On The Importance of Appreciating Animals for Here she writes about in the process of penning her latest book, that she arrived at a deeper understanding of all that animals can teach us. She also pays homage to her daughters' childhood dog and the pet loving lessons they learned from a Maltese named Oliver Pistachio Huffington -- Ollie, for short.

Today, the busy Ms. Huffington enjoys spending time with her grand-doggy, Lucy, a rescue dog her daughter recently adopted. (Incidentally, you can follow Lucy on Instagram @huffpuppy.)

After speaking with her and reading Thrive, I've summarized five ways pets play a role in "The Third Metric", according to Arianna Huffington.

5 Ways Pets Help Us Thrive

1. Pets activate loving. As she stated in our interview, pets help us to expand our boundaries of love, allowing for a greater sense of awareness and concern for others. They help us to open up, rather than shut down.

2. They teach us to live in the moment. As we hurry through each day, on our way to who-knows-where, we should pay attention to how our pets live in the moment -- and slow down to learn from it. Whether sniffing every plant on a walk, curiously investigating a new item in the home, or simply planting themselves between us and what we are trying to do, pets live in the here and now.

3. Pets mirror a furry version of our best selves. As humans, many things get in our way of pleasure, such as work, errands, frustrations, commitments. Pets can distract us from distractions and help us to connect with what makes us human -- our ability to love, feel and to give.

4. Pets heal a myriad of hurts. As a family member and constant companion, animals help us heal from illness more quickly, mitigate depression and even serve as healing ambassadors in the face of tragedy.

5. Pets enhance our social network (and I don't mean Facebook). Our emotional well-being is in part dependent on our social interactions. But those interactions need not be limited to humans. Studies show pet parents have higher self-esteem, are more physically fit and are less lonely than people without pets.

For more in-depth examples about the power of pet living in the third metric, see the Well-Being chapter of Thrive.

After my interview with Ms. Huffington, she invited me to cross post my blog, Kristen Levine Pet Living on I'm delighted to have the opportunity to spread the word about pet living for greater health and happiness.
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