The internet has given us access to more teachers, gurus and role models than ever before. Whether you want to lose weight, be more productive, or grow organic vegetables, there is someone just a few clicks away who will show you how — possibly for free, or more likely at a low, low price of $97. (No worries — there will be bonuses for ordering before the deadline!) It can be confusing knowing who to listen to or which teachers are truly qualified. The good news — there is an amazing teacher right under your feet — your dog.
Your cuddly, sweet, best friend is a wealth of information. While he might only tilt his head and lick your face when you ask for specific advice, if you observe carefully, he has more answers than you probably realize. Here is a list of ten important life lessons you should be learning from your dog.
- Walks make your whole body feel happy! Just ask your furry wonder if he wants to take a walk and he will probably answer with a happy tail and joyous circles as he leads you to his leash. He knows that venturing out into the world is fun and makes him feel fantastic. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular walks can help you maintain a healthy weight, manage conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, improve your mood, strengthen your muscles, and improve balance and coordination. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, if you want a better life, walk your dog!
- Take a few minutes to stop and smell the flowers, trees, herbs….The ability to smell is one of a dog’s most important senses. It tells him more about the world than your nose can, but he’s onto something important for you, too. Science has proven what dogs have known forever — scents can have a beneficial impact on your health and mood. Lavender is known for its soothing properties, pine lowers stress and eases depression, fresh-cut grass increases joy, peppermint helps with cognition and jasmine increases alertness. Slow down and enjoy the beautiful plants around you with your eyes, and your nose!
- Simple is often the best. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different toys available for dogs, but what’s the one seen and used most often? A simple tennis ball. Various internet articles list specific brands or types of balls, but it really comes down to a basic ball. You can apply this knowledge to your own life in many ways. You rarely need the most complex gadgets, the most complicated meals or the fanciest vacations. Simple items tend to not break as easily, be better for you, and allow you to enjoy the activity in which you are engaged rather than focusing on the object itself.
- Often a tilt of the head is all that needs to be said. How often have you been talking to your wonderpup and the response is an extreme head tilt? Sometimes silence is the best answer you can give when presented with difficult questions. Don’t rush into answers. Take your time. Think about things a bit. Plus, a tilt of the head leads to the next lesson.
- Change your perspective often. Life doesn’t happen in only two dimensions and neither do solutions to life’s problems. When seeking answers, such as the location of a favorite tennis ball, dogs don’t hesitate to dive under the table, stand on the couch, or simply roll over to look at the world upside-down. You can employ similar strategies. Next time you are working through a problem, get up and move, lay down on the floor, stand on a table, or find another way to literally change your perspective. In addition, there is science supporting the idea that movement influences problem-solving. So, get moving!
- Make new friends whenever possible! Though some dogs are more cautious than others, it is fairly common for dogs to enjoy meeting new people. It seems they are always willing to take the risk that a new person could mean food, a scratch behind the ear, or maybe even a few rounds of fetch. If nothing else, by being open, they have investigated the new person in their environment and have learned if it is safe to approach a second time, or not. You can try this too — a friendly word or two towards the new person at work, or on your bus could lead to an interesting few minutes or a lifelong friendship. You won’t know unless you take a chance.
- Radiating happiness makes everyone around you feel good. Think about it, when your four-legged buddy trots over to you, head held high, tail wagging, a cute doggy-smile lighting up his face, you can hardly keep from smiling. Whether canine smiles or human smiles, science shows smiles are not only contagious but are good for your health. Smiling releases endorphins, reduces anxiety and can lower blood pressure. You’ll be doing yourself and those around you a favor when you exercise your grin!
- Be willing to try new foods! While there are finicky dogs, especially when it comes to eating their own food, most are quite willing to test any new treat that comes their way. Some dogs seem to exist for the possibility of discovering tasty tidbits wherever they go. Are you stuck in a food rut? Trying new recipes, or even just a new vegetable you’ve never tried before, can be a fun way to introduce more healthy food into your life. My wife and I learned many new cooking skills from using a subscription meal service, plus we had fun cooking together (My Experience with Hello Fresh).
- Take naps! How envious of your dog are you when you find him snoring in a sun patch on the living room rug, or curled up in your favorite spot on the couch? The majority of Americans are sleep-deprived and could benefit from a short nap most days. Short naps, under 30 minutes, can improve mood, alertness, and performance. Rather than stealing time away from your busy day, napping could actually help you improve the quality of your waking hours.
- Play with abandon! Dogs don’t worry about looking foolish, wasting time, or not understanding every nuance of the rules — they just play whenever the mood strikes! Play is not just for dogs, or kids, play is for everyone. It can help ward off depression, increase productivity levels, reduce stress, strengthen relationships, improve your creativity and more. Whether your interests lead to basketball, building sandcastles at the beach or board games, the benefits of simply relaxing into a fun activity can be bountiful!
There you have it, ten easy life lessons your dog models for you on a daily basis. Observe her closely. What other wisdom lies beneath her adorable, furry exterior?