How being more dog can help your Mental Health

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Sat on the sofa watching my French Bulldog, Dinky Daisy, in front of the fire on her bed, chewing her ‘antler’ toy – a favorite at the moment, it makes me think that she looks so content and happy.

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Dinky Daisy – relaxing x

As I sit, I am not completely happy, I always have that worry in the pit of my stomach – what haven’t I done, what should I be doing, I can’t cope with what life is throwing at me, I will not cope with what is coming up…

I am sat thinking that I am looking old, that I should be exercising more – my Joe Wicks book still sat on the shelf. I am sat feeling guilty that I am not a good enough wife, mother, sister and daughter – I haven’t sent my nephew a Birthday card…I should have done that. 

I have all the self help books,   ‘ overcoming worry’, ‘how to succeed in life’, ‘CBT to help anxiety and depression’ but maybe I am looking in the wrong places to  – I look down again at my feet where my French Bulldog is still chewing away stopping just to glance at me with love and happiness in her eyes, well she does also have a little ‘don’t you even think of having my antler bone – it is mine!’ but we will brush past that look – lets stick with the love and happiness look

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This may sound completely barking, excuse the pun, but maybe I should learn some lessons from my best friend, Dinky Daisy. I don’t know call it dog mindfulness, becoming more zen dog.

I understand that dogs do not have the pressures that we have as humans, but surely I can learn something from my dog, can’t I ? She is not anxious, depressed, she is confident and happy – so what can I learn from my dog ? 

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  1. Walking, Running, Exercise

Dinky Daisy needs exercise, she becomes stressed if I don’t take her out for a good old walk in the fresh air – she loves to run and she would be outside all the time if I let her. So how can I use that for improved Mental Health. Well it is a fact that exercise increases the feel good hormones, helps to relax and improves mood. Walking is great and having a dog makes you go out everyday, even if you don’t feel like it, I always feel better after being out on the windy moor where I live. 

2. Can sit quietly, completely content

Now this is something I know I can’t do, not like her, she can sit there on the sofa, still, happy, content and quiet – I do everything in my power not to sit with my thoughts as they are not very good company, they are my arch enemy – best if I stay busy. If I sit quietly I will start the self loathing cycle or the worry cycle – why would I want to do that – I can go from ok to feeling useless in less than 60 seconds just by sitting with my thoughts. I should make myself sit quietly for at least 10 minutes, empty my head of the bad thoughts and replace them with thankfulness and appreciation. Yoga meditation is great for practicing this and I have found many free Yoga videos posted online. 

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3. Staying in the moment

Dogs don’t think in the future, they are in the present, in the moment – worry is mostly about the future…I am going out with friends tomorrow night..great, I am so excited – but wait (let the worry commence), what if I can’t find the new pub we are meeting..Oh god, what if there is not a parking space and I have to parallel park, what if I am not on form and have nothing interesting to talk about..Oh no, I had forgotten about the ‘what am I going to wear nightmare’ I am sure I have put weight on since I last saw them – bet they will think I am looking ugly whatever I put on…and so it goes on – by this point I don’t want to go, I could call and say I have to work late, I have food poisoning…so by thinking about the future I have put myself off from going to what would have been a great night with my best friends.  So by not staying in the moment I have not only ruined tomorrow night but also today as I will now spend the next 12 hours worrying, that is a lot of hours to miss what is going on right now. 

4. Asking for what she wants with not guilt or embarrassment

Another thing I am terrible at doing, Dinky Daisy lets me know exactly what she wants. she doesn’t go around the houses when asking me to give her a cuddle, a toy, a walk – she lets me know that’s what she wants and needs from me. Me, if I need something I may feel guilty that I need it, afraid to ask in case the answer is no or I am seen as ‘silly’ asking – do you know what I mean? – example – I am feeling low, upset and all I want is some comfort from my husband, I want a cuddle and 5 minutes to explain that I am feeling low and not sure why- so instead of saying something to him I fester, nag about other things, get frustrated and start snapping at those around me, work myself up and get upset about the smallest things. If I changed that into letting those who love me know exactly what I needed and tell them ‘ I woke up feeling not great can I have a cuddle and talk it through for a minute’ he would most likely do it – this could be enough to change the whole day – make me feel supported, listened to and I might even be able to discover what it is that is upsetting me so I can move on from the feelings. 

6. Time

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“canines are equipped with a natural instinct to live in the moment, despite having an understanding of the concept of time. It’s that devil-may-care attitude that allows them to forget about what happened yesterday — good or bad — and not worry a bit about what will happen tomorrow.” Click here to find out more

So dogs do have a concept of time, but not in the way us humans do – dogs tend to live in the moment and do not have an instinct to look to the future and worry – I live by the clock, time is either going to fast or slow – usually fast – I worry that I am not going to get everything done in the day – but do I put to much emphasis on time, I understand that we have to clock watch when we have to, for example, get to our  jobs, but on those days off – do I really need to clock watch and worry about what I am not doing, and when I am doing something thinking about the other things I should be doing or think I should be doing ! Living in the moment could lessen the anxiety that clocks bring to my life

5. Play

Dogs play, with out embarrassment,  watch your dog play with a ball – pure joy on their part – and fun for us humans to watch. Watch your dog chew at their favorite toy or drag their teddy around – they are completely focused on playing. When dogs are young they play to learn and practice new skills, but they still play when they are adult dogs – to me they continue to play as a release, they enjoy it – Daisy doesn’t care what I or anyone else thinks of her when she plays – Have you seen the TV where it shows wild animals play – why do they do it ? As adults we stop playing, why? Maybe we would feel a whole lot better if we did play – I am not talking all the time – but maybe we should incorporate it into our day – learn to do something we enjoy and do it once a day – live life, to not see playing as a waste of time but as a vital part of having good mental health so we can tackle the harder things that life throws our way…just a thought 

6. Have people around you that love you

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Dinky Daisy would not be as content and healthy if it was for not of the love of my husband and I – Dogs are only these things when they have a human family who love and care for them. This is the most vital point in her contentment – she has all she needs to flourish into a healthy. well-rounded dog that is provided by us. If this care is withdrawn the dog becomes anxious, aggressive, withdrawn – just look at dogs who have been abused by their owners…same for us as humans – we also need to surround ourselves with people who nourish us for us to flourish. 

motivation-1992299_12807. Transparent emotions /  show your happiness

When I have been at work all day and I walk through the front door I don’t even get the chance to put my handbag down as Dinky Daisy jumps madly onto me, her bum wiggling ( her  attempt to tail wag), running manically around the living room – if she could talk I am sure she would be shouting at the top of her voice …I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE HOME !!  

on the flip side if she is upset, nervous, angry she shows me – she doesn’t hold back showing her emotions, non of this suppressing it – so why do I suppress my emotions ? 

After being at work I am happy to be home and see my family, but often this gets buried deep and for some strange reason I will walk through the door and start moaning, either about my day or the mess that is presented to me as I walk in – should it not matter more that I walk in showing the same as Dinky Daisy … you know the…I AM SO HAPPY to be home, that I have a wonderful family and I am now home with them…the human equivalent of the tail wag. 

10. Don’t worry or think about what others think if you

Example ; I feel fine leaving the house, I go into town and stop for a coffee – I have mobility problems which means I can walk funny -stiff with a bit of a swingy leg – a woman at the table I walk I think looks at me ‘funny’ – what is she thinking about me? is now all I am thinking about…if she is thinking it everyone else is noticing my swingly leg and thinking I look like like an idiot? I wish I hadn’t come out. Believe me those negative thoughts then start to spiral – bet people I have walked past have thought how fat I am, ugly I am, stupid I am, old…now I am not looking forward to my hot chocolate (with cream and little marshmallows), now I just want to run home and curl up in bed. So what happened – I let my perception of ‘what I think others are thinking of me’ to ruin my day. You know what, I bet that woman in the shop didn’t even look at me, you usually find, if we asked, most people are not looking at you and forming a negative judgement about you – it’s in your head ! 

11. Don’t judge others on appearance, religion, ethnicity, sexuality  and don’t let what others bother you

Dinky Daisy does not judge anyone by what they look like, who their partner is or what they believe – she judges others on how they treat her – Treat Dinky Daisy well and she will love you unconditionally, treat her bad and she will not want to be near you – simple. 

She doesn’t look at me sat on the sofa in my PJ’s and thinks oooo she should be dressed by now… no she comes over and wants a cuddle. My friend doesn’t believe in God but I don’t see Dinky Daisy going over and saying – “no don’t tickle my belly as you are a non – believer !” We definitely should learn that from dogs – not the belly rub thing, the non-judgement thing.

These are just a few of my late night thoughts on the subject and I will look at each one in more depth, and might even add some more as I continue to talk to people and read on the subject.

Please if you have any thoughts on this subject or would like to guest blog for me on the subject of Dogs and Mental Health then comment below or contact me via the contact tab.

Have a ‘More dog than human day’ and have fun…

 

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