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11 Life Lessons We Can All Learn From Dogs About Health and Happiness

I have long been a dog lover and dogs have been in my family since I was a baby. As such it probably comes as no surprise that long dog walks are at the top of my list when it comes to de-stressing and unwinding; nothing beats it.

After two truly beautiful jaunts out to the river this weekend, I started thinking just how much we can learn from our fluffy four-legged friends, particularly in embracing simple ways to live a more healthy and happy existence.

So, as it’s the weekend I thought I’d take a moment to take a break from articles about the workplace and instead share my top 11 lessons from the canine world for chasing the dream of a happy and healthy life.

1. Make time to stretch, rest and sleep

After a long run, dogs listen to their bodies and curl up for a snooze to recharge the batteries. Sometimes we need to do the same...making a conscious choice to stop, take a long stretch and rest.

Our minds and bodies need the time to recover from the demands of life. Sleep is natures reset button and provides the opportunity for our brains to repair and process all the information received from the day.

2. Enjoy time with friends

Dogs are pack animals and our dogs love to play with their friends. Similarly, we are social creatures and need regular time to connect with people around us.

Investing time in building support networks with friends and colleagues is a powerful part of living a healthy lifestyle and interacting with others helps to increase our levels of personal resilience.

3. Show love and affection

Our dogs are bundles of affection, they relish every opportunity for a cuddle.

Love and affection are powerful contributors to our mental health. Showing and receiving love helps manage stress and reduce anxiety and even helps you live longer. Affection boosts self esteem and prevents feelings of isolation, providing soothing comfort in the face of distress and lowering blood pressure.

"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive."

Gilda Radner

4. Run and play

Dogs love to run and play and equally for us, exercise and having fun are essential for living an active and healthy lifestyle.

Enjoyment and movement release the "happy hormones" and help keep us motivated, energised and positive. Being physically active reduces tension and levels of both fatigue and frustration whilst increasing motivation, self-esteem and a sense of achievement.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously!

We are all wonderfully unique and original, sharing all sorts of differences and similarities with the people around us. Living a happy life means being free of the worry of judgement from others and the ability to accept ourselves for who we are without taking ourselves too seriously!

6. Stop and enjoy the moment

From the lake district to the beach, our dogs will always take a moment to pause, scan the horizon and drink in their surroundings.

In our fast-paced world, sometimes we need to do the same, taking the time to simply stop, take a big deep breath and appreciate the beauty around us.

7. Be curious

Dogs are curious creatures; their senses are always bombarding them with information about their environment and world around them.

Fostering a healthy curiosity about ourselves and the world around us helps us to embrace change and expand our minds, to be open to new ideas and prospects and keep our mind active.

8. Take the plunge

Our dogs love water and love the opportunity to dive into rivers, seas and lakes.

Taking the plunge and grasping new opportunities means taking risks and pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, discovering the breadth of our potential and boosting our self-esteem.

9. Smile and laugh

Smiling (and tail wagging) is the antidote to stress.

Sometimes we just need to find the humour in a situation and lighten the load with laughter, brightening our world and releasing tension in the body.

10. Listen

Dogs have extremely sensitive hearing and will often pause to tune into a sound near or far. They will listen not just to noise but to body language and tone of voice.

By comparison, human beings are terrible listeners. By actively listening and improving on our communication skills we can build stronger relationships and improve our levels of emotional intelligence.

11. Enjoy the moment

Dogs live in the moment. They enjoy a muddy puddle or a big stick without compromise or concern, they simply relish in the joy of the present.

Enjoying the present moment without the apprehension of the past or future liberates us from stress and empowers us to let go, cultivate an inner stability and heighten our self awareness.

So that’s my top 11 lessons from the canine world (and with a little help from Mishka and Teddy). I may have taught them a few tricks over the years but they can certainly teach all of us a lot about love and life, health and happiness.

"Dogs are our link to paradise.

They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace." Milan Kundera

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