By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
A recent New Yorker Magazine cartoon I read showed a psychiatrist asking his patient if he had tried taking long walks. Upon more careful inspection it is revealed that the “psychiatrist” is a dog.
- Take long walks daily — Although daily exercise does not need to be only long walks, getting up, out and moving not only helps our physical health, it also lifts our spirits, shifts our focus and does wonders for improved Mental Health & Happiness
- When reunited with a loved one, always greet them — Are you lucky enough to be living with a dog right now? If you are then you know the glory of coming home after an absence of short or long duration. The dog greets you with unbridled joy and delight. Now imagine regularly giving and receiving this same level of enthusiasm, love and affection when greeting and reuniting with all those you love. Just imagining this scene improves my level of Mental Health & Happiness. How about you?
- Get lots of rest — Even if you’re living with a puppy you know you don’t have to ask your dog to nap, rest or sleep. It is true that some dogs need some help and encouragement to lay down and calm down when they are overly enthusiastic. But every dog will nap, sleep, and sometimes dream on the hardest floors, in the coldest drafts or most ragged make-shift dog beds. Dogs are champion sleepers, resters, and nappers. Following this lead can help our physical and mental health and happiness.
- Show compassion — If you have ever lived with a dog you know their remarkable instinct to come near you when you are upset, distraught and sad. They seem to know that their very presence, that might also include a full body leaning into you or putting their head on your knee or in your lap, will help to offer you some comfort and compassion that you sorely need. I want to be able to do the same with the people in my life who are experiencing unhappiness and sadness. Just as a dog knows the best therapy at this time is being close and silent, I want to be the same.
- Listen more than speak — Even if the dog you hang around a lot is a yippy dog, I bet she listens more than she barks. This is a lesson I’m concentrating on learning and incorporating into my life. I am a talker. But just as a yippy dog can become tedious, I know my talking can rub people this same, wrong way. My Mental Health & Happiness will improve when I can listen more than I talk.
- Love unconditionally — Has your dog every told you that she loves you but just wishes you would stop clapping your hands when you call her or start feeding her the better, more expensive dog food? Have you ever told your dog that you would love him more if only he were a little softer or more obedient? My experience is that the closest most human beings will ever get to unconditional love is in their relationship with a dog. Dogs don’t ask us why we didn’t call when we promised we would. Dogs don’t accuse us of loving the cat more than them. Dogs don’t hold a grudge against us for skipping today’s long walk because of rain. Dogs simply love and adore us, are happy when we play catch with them, and will happily sleep at our feet or on the couch if we will let them. I want to learn to give and receive love as unconditionally as a dog. I know this would be great for my Mental Health & Happiness and my relationships.
What Mental Health & Happiness lessons are you learning from your dog or cat? Please share. . .