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.
Walking your dog is so great in so many ways: It’s excellent exercise, you spend quality time with your pooch doing what they love best, you get to breathe in fresh air, and dog-walking has even been shown to reduce stress and build your sense of community. But here’s an easy way to amp up your daily ritual and make it even more powerful: walk your dog mindfully.
When we think of mindfulness, we think of stillness, meditation, awareness and savoring this very moment with a full heart. Now incorporate these mindful intentions next time you walk your dog—and get ready to watch the many benefits unfold!
1. Slow down. If you walk the same loop around your neighborhood every day and you’re on autopilot, take a different path and consciously slow down. Instead of seeing the walk as a doggie bathroom break, awaken your senses and reconnect with nature around you. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Notice the new things around you. Breathe. Pay attention to how the flowers and trees smell, or maybe the crisp autumn air from a distant log burning in a fireplace somewhere. Listen to bird calls or the sound of the wind. Feel the sun on your skin. Follow your dog’s lead as he walks with balance and harmony on the earth. Getting out of your head and into the natural world in this way is very healing for both mind and body. (For more on the powerful healing properties of spending time in nature, check out my article on the Japanese art of “forest bathing.”)
2. Connect with the now. On this mindful walk with your dog, do not worry about what happened yesterday or in the past, or stress over what’s to come. Yes, this is difficult to do—but focus on setting your intention to focus only on this moment before you. This exercise in mindfulness allows you to free your mind and find a quiet place where true healing, inspiration and problem-solving can begin to grow.
It may help you to remember the five Reiki precepts.
For today only …
Do not anger.
Do not worry.
Practice diligently in your work.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.
3. Make mindful dog-walking your new habit. In our chaotic, busy lives, the reality is that, for most of us, mindful dog-walking will be difficult to do each and every time. But if you aim for 30 minutes three times a week, you’ll be incorporating more mindfulness into your life than ever before. And pretty soon something amazing will begin to happen: You’ll find it easier than ever to access that space of inner peace that our animals just naturally reside in—especially when times get tough.
Have you ever walked your dog mindfully?
We all have bad days. Some of us have bad weeks or even months. Recently, I went through a tough period of time—twice—during treatments for breast cancer. One thing I’ve learned over the years is the importance of learning how to ground myself so I can stay strong, especially on my down days, the days I need it most. Here are three rock-solid techniques for staying grounded (even on your worst days):
1. Connect with nature. One of the best things you can do for your well-being every single day is to go outside. So … ditch the treadmill and make a point to connect with nature. Breathe in fresh air. Feel the sun on your skin. Take in the beauty of the natural environment all around you. Do some gardening if that’s your thing. This simple step (which also happens to be supported by science) instantly helps us to feel better and is known to lower stress, reduce depression and even boost your immune system. Sunshine, too, also has its share of health benefits, including a wonderful endorphin surge. If you’re like me and you love the sounds of water—crashing waves, trickling streams—it could be you’re feeling positive vibes from all the negative ions being released. (For more, read up on forest bathing.)
2. Meditate. I like to sit with my animals and meditate, but you can meditate any way you wish. It also doesn’t have to take a lot of time, though daily practice definitely provides positive effects on our bodies and minds. The best part is, according to various studies, meditation helps us manage anxiety, depression, stress and the like, all the while improving blood pressure, cellular health, our immune system and more. Next time you find yourself stressed, try these tips for achieving peace through meditation.
3. Work up a sweat. When you’re feeling down, finding the motivation to exercise can be really hard! But sometimes we just have to force ourselves. Find your motivation (perhaps cute new jogging sneakers or the excited tail wags of your pooch) and make it happen. Keep in mind exercise is most likely to happen if you’re doing something you enjoy. So take your dog for a walk, do some yoga poses, go jogging, join a Pilates class, ride your bike to the store or coach your kid’s softball team. Just get those endorphins flowing!
These techniques work great for me. But please share: What are your secrets for staying grounded when times get tough?