The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is introducing a new way for students to relieve stress – and his name is Jasper.
Jasper is a therapy dog. The university is testing a new scheme where students and staff will be able to spend 30 minutes playing with the nine-year-old English Sheepdog to help them relax.
But while spending time with animals can make us feel more relaxed, it isn’t an option for everyone in a city like Hong Kong, a counsellor said.
Scarlett Tsoi Yee-man says therapy dogs can help reduce stress, but the best method is simply learning how to deal with the pressure yourself.
“There are two main types of stress: internal sources where someone criticises themselves a lot ... Then, there are external sources where there are toxic physical environments or relationships,” she says.
The counsellor says it’s a good idea for people to have a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
She adds that having a positive mindset and talking about your feelings with others will also make you feel lot calmer.
Tsoi says that using dogs to de-stress isn’t as feasible in Hong Kong as it would be in some countries.
“As there are so many people, Hongkongers tend to ask someone else for help. In countries where there is more countryside and fewer people to ask for emotional support, yes I agree, therapy dogs can help significantly,” says Tsoi.
HKU’s pilot programme is the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Jasper will be at the Lui Che Woo Law Library in HKU’s Centennial Campus for three days next month. The available slots are on December 11, 13, and 15 at 9:30am, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm on each day.
Jasper was originally rescued by the charity group Hong Kong Dog Rescue in 2009, before being adopted by his current owner.