Dogs can teach us a thing or two about life: happiness that never quits, forgiveness that quickly forgets, and enthusiasm that just doesn’t fade. All of the things we strive (and struggle!) for, come so easily to our four-legged friends. We can definitely take a page from their book (or maybe a drool-drenched toy from their pile).
So exactly what do dogs teach us about living a happy life? Let’s find out.
Why Are Dogs So ‘Pawsitively’ Happy?
During the first and second waves of the COVID pandemic, dogs were adopted at a faster rate than ever before. All of those loving gazes, endless cuddles, and innocently positive attitudes brought us stability and joy during difficult times.
But what makes dogs the resiliently happy animals that they are? Here’s a breakdown: They embrace simplicity. A dog’s life is simple: eat, play, sleep. They don’t overthink the details or dream up worst-case scenarios. They take things one moment at a time, and since their needs are simple, so is feeling happiness!
Those ‘puppy dog eyes.’ When a dog gazes into your eyes, it increases your oxytocin levels (aka the love hormone), which then increases your dog’s oxytocin levels too. We call it the ‘love loop’ because when you and your dog are together, there’s ample love to go around! They love company.
Dogs are pack animals, so naturally, they love to see, sniff, and spend time with their owners. It’s even been shown that human contact reduces cortisol (stress) levels in dogs, compared to time spent alone in animal shelters.
What Can We Learn From Dogs?
Whether you have a dog or not, mirroring their attitude towards life can uplift our mood and health. We’ve gathered 5 lessons from dogs that you can start applying to your own life. Let’s dig in! (Pun intended.)
5 Lessons From Dogs
#1. Lots of deep, restful sleep.
Whenever and wherever they are, pups have no problem dozing off into a peaceful sleep. In fact, they sleep about 10.1 hours a day - and just like us, lower sleep quality drags down their health. So what about us humans?
Well, there’s no magic number of optimal sleep because it depends on factors like your age and genetics. But as a general benchmark, scientists recommend between 7-9 hours for ages 18-64 to avoid daytime fatigue, feeling low, and poor functioning. Interestingly enough, consistency is even more important than the digits when it comes to sleep.
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is one of the best things you can do for your health.
#2. Move your body…a lot!
We don’t know about you, but we’ve never seen a dog too tired to play. More often than not, they’re full of life and vitality - and they can always muster up some extra energy to squeeze in another walk if the opportunity comes up.
Here’s what we can learn from dogs: sit less, move more! According to the CDC, adults are recommended the following on a weekly basis:(i) 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity.
This includes a brisk walk, riding a bike, hiking, dancing, or anything else that raises your heart rate. (ii) 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities to work for all major muscle groups. This includes pilates, lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, and using resistance bands.
#3. Find joy in the small things.
Often, it’s the small things that bring the most joy - just look at a dog when it knows it’s time for a walk. New toys, delicious treats, and playing fetch is about all it takes to bring out the ‘happy feels’ in a pup. And you can live like that, too (minus playing fetch).
When you stop hankering for what you don’t have, you’ll start relishing the simple joys that are already in your life. The ‘small stuff’ – pouring a smooth cup of tea, preparing a delicious meal, or sinking into the couch with an enthralling book – can be as fulfilling as the ‘big stuff’ if you let it.
#4. Live in this moment.
Mindful living…nobody does it better than dogs! Dogs aren’t bogged down by thoughts about past events or what the future holds. When they’re eating or playing, they’re completely immersed in it (and definitely not thinking about grocery lists or what they’re going to do afterward).
Here’s what we can learn from dogs: Become masters at living in the here and now, just like them!
Mindful living may not be your second nature, but you can make it a habit. Mindfulness is a practice that involves both making an effort and letting go - instead of avoiding, suppressing, or ruminating on negative thoughts, you become aware of, accept, and merely observe them as they come and go.
#5. Feel and express gratitude.
If you have a dog, you’ve likely experienced those melt-your-heart moments of your pup expressing gratitude. All those licks, tail wags, and putting their paw on you is their way of showing affection and being sincerely grateful…for you!
Just like your favorite dogs, you can tap into what you’re grateful for and express it in a way that feels natural like letters, thoughtful gestures for loved ones, or journal entries. When you nurture gratitude, it grows and grows until you feel absolutely joyful.
What Dogs Teach Us: Practice Makes Perfect
If you’ve trained a dog to learn a new trick, you know that it takes practice and great guidance. Similarly, living a more fulfilling and mindful life takes practice, too - and the Reflect Orb can be your trusted companion on that journey.