…Taking the time to slow down and take in the experiences around you… to quiet your mind and focus on what is happening in the present…to let go of the past and not worry about the future — without judgment. That is mindfulness. While it sounds easy enough, it can be difficult to put into practice. We get so busy in our daily lives and our thoughts can swirl around us and keep us from noticing the beauty of simple moments. Many studies have tracked the positive effects of mindfulness through meditation and other training that helps us to slow down our thinking, aid in relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety and treat depression and addiction. There are some people that enjoy meditating on each moment — but for the average person that is not a Tibetan monk, we are fortunate if we can enjoy a walk or pay attention when our partner or children are speaking to us. This is more than just some New Age fluff. Being able to meditate, control our breathing, and be mindful is a very useful life skill.
This is where our dogs are happy to enter the picture. They are masters of being present. If you stop for a moment and pay attention to your dog, it is easy to see that they naturally pay attention and live in the moment at hand. Nothing would make them happier than to be your mindfulness coach. Nature is a good environment to practice mindfulness. Dogs appreciate the importance of spending time in nature and they look forward to getting outside regularly. No one has to tell a dog to “Stop and smell the roses.” Of course., they do this whenever the opportunity presents itself — along with the bushes, the hydrants, and the brick walls. They will sniff it all with pleasure and delight. They need to take it all in They are built for it. Dogs have approximately 125 million-300 million scent glands depending on the breed. Compared to our 5 million scent glands as humans, the difference is enormous. Dogs can tell where we have been and who we have been with as soon as we enter the room. This is why dogs are generally so happy to explore new surroundings. Sniffing around the neighborhood is how dogs catch up on all the local news. They can tell who has been in the yard and even if the other dogs are sick. Reviewing all this information is mentally enriching and tiring to dogs and is just as important as the physical aspect of a good walk for dogs. The smarter the dog, the more important it is to mentally stimulate them. Smell (and nose work) is a wonderful way to do that. This is important to remember the next time you take your dog for a walk and get frustrated because they want to smell every bush and tree trunk. If you have an athletic dog and want to make sure they are tired, be sure to include some slower sniffing time for their brain. A dog that gets mental and physical exercise is calmer and happier. While we don’t have an olfactory system that comes even close to that of dogs, we can benefit in so many other ways by tuning into our surroundings. You don’t have to sniff the bushes to enjoy the flowers in bloom or the changing colors of the leaves with new seasons. And, it is just one way that being around dogs can help us.
Dogs take situations and relationships as they are — not how they were or could be. Apologies and promises mean nothing to a dog. Dogs are smart like that. I can’t even tell you how much grief I could have saved myself if I had learned to accept people as they are instead of hoping and waiting for different outcomes over the years. Dogs don’t care about appearances or money. How you treat them is everything. Dogs don’t play games and pretend that a relationship is good when it is actually bad like humans often do. Dogs love people that are good to them and they stay away from mean people as much as they can. They don’t play hard to get if they love someone. If a dog loves you, they show it.
When they need a little space, they take it — without apology. If a dog is tired, they take a nap. If dogs are overwhelmed, they find a quiet, safe place and will stay there as long as they need to do so. They know it is ok to take a little alone time. Nobody thinks a dog is selfish when they take a little quiet time. It is okay for you to take some quiet time too. Just don’t crawl under the dining room table, or people WILL think you are weird.
I hope that you take the time to find some joy in your day — whether you’re out on a walk with your dog or just enjoying some quiet couch time. And, can you imagine what it would be like to have a relationship as honest and loyal as the one you have with a dog? Wow, that would be awesome.