“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
For some time now, I’ve been thinking about writing a post about pets and health. Then over the summer, I hired a photographer to update my social media headshot, as the one I was using was more than a decade old. I was frustrating the photographer because he couldn’t get me to relax and be natural. Then my wife let our dog Barkley out and as he bounded to greet me, the photographer said, “There you are,” and started snapping away. By far the best pictures of the day were of me with my dog. Suddenly I had a shot that truly deserved to be featured on a post about pets!
My friend Wendy Van de Poll knows more about the relationships between pets and their owners than anyone else I know. Wendy is a total dog nerd, a long distance swimmer, and the founder of the Center for Pet Loss Grief. She’s also a prolific author, penning five books to assist pet owners with the difficult emotions and transitions that come with the loss of a pet. Today, Wendy is writing about the love and joy pets can bring into our lives, and the important life lessons they can help us to learn.
With great pleasure, I introduce Wendy Van de Poll to our Happy Living community.
Like me, do you sometimes forget the innate relationship that you hold with yourself and others? When you do forget – do you:
- Lose touch with the healthy you?
- Get lazy with your decisions and feel drained by your physical, mental, spiritual and financial life?
- Develop so much mind clutter that you are chasing your emotions and never seem to catch up?
I understand and I know this can be exhausting. The thing is that you probably have some unexpected teachers very close to you who can help with these problems.
These teachers can offer you a totally new perspective on managing your life. They can help you with healthy diversions and solutions to change the sometimes endless mire of burnout, self-doubt, anxiety, self-sabotage, depression and a ton more unhelpful states! Can you guess who this amazing teacher is? It is actually your pet, that animal companion whom you love and cherish everyday! He or she really can teach you important lessons about happy living!
Here are seven ways you can learn about what matters most in life from your pet:
1. Physical Fitness
No matter what type of animal you share your life with, they all move their bodies, a lot of the time. This serves as a good reminder to us to play, exercise and take a break from sedentary work. Moving playfully everyday opens your mind and spirit to all types of great ideas and expands your creativity.
2. Mental Fitness
Don’t forget to show your joy when you are happy! Animals are not afraid to show their joy in life. Remember, it was Barkley’s pure joy that relaxed Matt during his photo shoot. Our pets are very clear and honest with all their feelings. These days, we live our lives so fast that we often forget to celebrate our successes. We lose touch with our innate knowledge and forget to get excited that we live in a world where flowers bloom, seasons change and the sun comes up every single day.
3. Spiritual Fitness
I love this one because as humans this is probably one of the most important lessons we could learn in order to stay centered and calm. So often we spend our lives ruminating over the past and worrying about the future… How many animals do you know that do this? They all live in the present moment. The past is gone and you can’t do anything about it. The future is unknown. So learn from your pets and enjoy the present no matter what situation you are in.
4. Financial Fitness
Since animals really don’t care about money or living beyond their means, how they interact with their pack, flock, etc. is something humans can learn from. A simple yet healthy family structure is a basic survival mechanism for most animals in the wild. Basic needs such as shelter, food and safety are of the upmost importance. Extra possessions are not necessary and in fact could be a hindrance to growth and strength.
Love can transform all fear. I am sure you have heard many stories about how love helps all types of fearful animals overcome insecurities and become wonderful companions. And guess what? Love works for us, too! Love conquers all anxieties, fear, lack of self-esteem and more. The first step is to love ourselves and then replace all fear and any self-criticism with this love. When you do this you will begin to feel better, act better and live your life with peace.
Whether you have a dog who loves to be in the car, a horse who loves to run or a bird who loves to fly around in your home… observe how they are enjoying their journey. They don’t care where they are going and are totally present in the moment. When we set our goals, we often get too attached to the outcome. We get frustrated and maybe angry if we don’t meet our own crazily high expectations. So, make like your pet and, next time you set a goal, enjoy your personal journey towards it.5
No matter what we do our animals care for and love us unconditionally. Yes… even your cat. However, it is our dogs who have this down and no matter what mood you are in they still want to give you big wet kisses. They don’t judge you on how you behave either. Loving others unconditionally is probably the most difficult task for us humans, but wouldn’t you agree that the world would be a better place if we learned this lesson from our pets?
You can learn what really matters most in your life from a variety of animals – from those you share your home with, dream about or which are wild in your backyard. Their companionship, loyalty and lessons are unmatched when keeping your connection to your seven foundations of health.
Thank you, Wendy. And thank you, Barkley, too! J
Barkley is not currently engaged in social media.
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