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12 healthy habits from animals you need to emulate

As caregivers for our animals, we work hard to keep them healthy—with vet visits, healthy food, regular brushings and the like. But sometimes we forget that they, too, can show us important ways to stay healthy and happy every day. Here are 12 animal habits you need to emulate:

1. Exercise each day. Animals are masters at sitting around and chilling (see #2), but they also find joy in keeping their heart rates up. Hamsters run in their wheels, cats tear through the house like buffalos, and dogs bring their leash to you in their mouth. They remind us that exercise isn’t just healthy, but it can be fun, too.

2. Catch those zzz’s. Our animals play hard, but they also know when it’s time to recharge, and that’s when they head for their favorite bed or sunbeam. We humans, on the other hand, tend to overschedule ourselves and lose track of time, which can cut into precious sleep. Our animals remind us the importance of a full night’s sleep—but if we fall behind, even a 15-minute nap can add more power to your day.

3. Wake up with a stretch. Cats, especially, are masters at stretching. This healthy habit is one we should all add to our daily routine. Stretching promotes joint health, muscle strength and flexibility. For inspiration, here are 12 stretches to keep you fit as you age.

4. Stay hydrated. Follow your animal’s lead and head for water to quench your thirst. (Sorry, Diet Coke doesn’t count!) For optimal health, we all need about a half-gallon every day. Next time you’re thirsty, be like this kitty:

5. Reuse and recycle. The rise of consumerism means we now live in a throw-away society. Though some of us make true efforts at recycling and reusing things, it is difficult and we could all do better. Animals, for obvious reasons, make do with what nature has to offer. Next time you take a walk, look around and think about the inspiring ways animals reuse and recycle: Animals find or make burrows. Birds make nests from found items like twigs, thread and paper, and then use that nest again and again.

6. Don’t skip meals. Our animals love to eat, and they always tell us when their tummy clock goes off! But they’re very good at eating just the right portion at exactly the right time, not choosing to go hungry, and always minimizing treats (thanks in large part to us). These are good rules to live by: See what happens to your body when you skip a meal.

7. Take joy in simple pleasures. I love how animals find happiness in the smallest of moments: a discarded cardboard box, a rolled-down window in the car, the heater vent, a jumping grasshopper. This is a smart habit worth cultivating: Check out these 7 benefits of smiling and laughing.

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder

8. Practice forgiveness. This is one of the hardest habits for us, but it seems to come easy for our animals. We cherish our dogs and cats (and horses and lizards) partly because they don’t hold grudges; they forgive us for messing up and always show up with purrs and tail wags, no matter what. According to Johns Hopkins, forgiveness is a healthy habit indeed: In fact, our health depends on it.

9. Play! Children and animals naturally gravitate toward play. But at some point, while slogging through adulthood, many of us forget. We lose sight of that important desire for being silly. Here’s an interesting piece on the incredible psychological benefits of “playtime” for grownups.

10. Soak up some sun. We worry a lot about skin cancer, but spending a bit of time in the sun is good for you. As our animals know, feeling that warmth on your skin is rejuvenating (and a healthy way to get your Vitamin D). Just make sure to respect the sun, prevent burns, and wear a hat and sunscreen after 15 minutes or so.

11. Be curious. I love how cats are little furry seekers of knowledge. It’s almost as if they exist in a constant state of curiosity! But this disposition can benefit us, too: Here are 5 reasons why we should all be a little more curious.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” —Albert Einstein

12. Savor the moment. Animals live in a special mindful space we humans are always trying to reach (but rarely achieve). It’s so hard to “be mindful” when that same mind is filled with worries for the day, responsibilities for loved ones, tasks to accomplish and so on. But striving for mindfulness is good for your health. Don’t worry, your animals will show you the way! Here are 5 mindfulness lessons from our animals.

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