If you’re a pet owner, then you know your companion adds more than just warmth to a home. They bring joy, laughter, and, yes, lessons. People buy pets with an idea of what comes next — caring for your pet. Feeding and visits to the veterinarian are all expected. But close observation of pet behaviors offers unexpected reminders on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
I own a Shipoo named Coco. She’s an adorable curly-haired cross between a Shih-Tzu and miniature Poodle. Back in 2019, she won my heart, and our home hasn’t been the same since. She makes her presence known in every space. Here are three things Coco taught me that have improved my well-being.
Dogs are naturally curious. They are ready and eager to explore the unknown. With tilted heads, tails, and ears up, they stuff their noses under dusty beds and nudge shoes and toys to unravel the unknown. Isn’t that a great way to approach life — through a lens of curiosity? Being curious allows us to learn new things, challenge the old, and grow personally.
And according to Greater Good Magazine,
“For children and adults alike, curiosity has been linked with psychological, emotional, social, and even health benefits.” Curious people are: happier, more resilient, and engaged at work, have improved relationships, and improved healthcare.
Want to delve deeper and ignite your curiosity? Then take a moment to watch this TedTalk: by Rose Cain, Ignite Your Curiosity.
Dogs naturally stretch. So, it’s no surprise my dog stretches every morning. First, she leans her head back, extending her neck. Then leans forward, extends her paws in front of her body, and holds the position. Similar to the Downward-Facing Dog yoga pose. Afterward, she stretches her hind legs and, minutes later, is ready to play. My dog reminded me that stretching is essential. And if I create a daily routine, stretching can become second nature to me.
Stretching has health benefits we cannot overlook. According to Insider, “Stretching is beneficial for your health because it improves flexibility, mobility, and posture.”
If you’re wondering how often you should stretch, Harvard Health Publishing provides the following guidelines:“Healthy adults should do flexibility exercises (stretches, yoga, or tai chi) for all major muscle-tendon groups — neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles — at least two to three times a week.”
If you want to begin stretching, consider watching this beginner’s video on YouTube by Ask Dr. Jo. Other videos are also available on YouTube based on your fitness level. As a reminder, check with your doctor before beginning new workout/exercise or stretching programs.
Communicate — Bark
All dogs find a way to make sound and communicate — even the Basenji, known as the “barkless dog.” Barking is a way for dogs to express emotions, ranging from fear, anxiety to joy. Dogs find a way to express their needs in the most basic way — a guttural sound that can, at times, send dog owners and their neighbors running for earplugs or a dog muffle. When you think about it, dogs speak up. Dogs remind us of the importance of speaking up and advocating for ourselves.
Many of us hold our breath, try to keep the peace, or be politically correct — not wanting to rock the boat and hurt someone’s feelings. But when we don’t communicate, it builds up inside of us, creating a well of bitterness, anger, and sometimes shame impacting our mental health. When we speak up, we can be our authentic selves, extending an offer for others to do the same. Speaking up also helps us build trust with others.
As in the words of the late Maya Angelou:
“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes. … and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” — Maya Angelou
Want to speak up more or communicate authentically? Then take a moment to watch this TedTalk by Adam Galinsky, How to speak up for yourself. And review the article, 5 Tips to Better Authentic Communication.