We often talk about the unconditional love that we receive from dogs. Instead let’s talk about how dogs can help us to discover and connect with who we truly are. Dogs have so much to teach us if we allow ourselves to learn from them. Their pure light and love is palpable. They are incredible beings who do not judge or criticize, they just love who and how we are. No questions, no expectations, they just enjoy being with us in the moment.
Looking at Life Through the Eyes of a Dog
Everything is fresh and exciting to a dog, even if they have done something dozens of times before. They miss us when we are gone, and give us attention when we return. Most dogs are open playful beings and like to cuddle. They are always true to themselves. Is this the kind of being you might like to be?
When my sweet precious black lab, Keegan, is lying in her bed belly up and all four paws to the sky, I have a visceral response. My heart opens to unimaginable proportions and my whole being responds. Notice what happens for you when you are in the presence of a dog. Is this how you would like to feel more often?
Do You Need “Dog Therapy”?
So often we lose touch with our authentic selves as we get caught up in the demands of the day to day. What we might truly feel is buried under what we feel are expected adult behaviors and how we must act to appear responsible. But sometimes, truly being with a dog can be therapeutic for us.
- Do you sometimes feel that you have lost your sense of humor, or never really had one in the first place?
- Do you find yourself so caught up in life’s routines, and fast paced lifestyle, that you walk around the world feeling oh so serious, or wearing a scowl on your face, or perhaps even more concerning—no expression at all?
- Do you ever think that all the warmth inside has drained from you, or there was never any warmth to begin with, and just rigidity and a sense of detachment from self or others?
- Do you ever feel that you are just walking through life on automatic pilot and not really feeling or experiencing the world?
Interacting with a dog might help us relax and regain that comfort level with our authentic selves. Enjoying time with a carefree dog can allow us to relax. Our troubles melt away as we become playful. In fact, being silly with a dog is encouraged and met with their unbridled enthusiasm. Often, we then find that enthusiasm contagious and rediscover our sense of humor and joy for the little things in life. Things we may not have noticed, or embraced, as we hurried through our day.
What Can We Learn from Our Dogs?
It’s important to be mindful of how we feel emotionally and what happens within our bodies when we are with a dog. There are many articles about the physical and emotional health benefits of having a dog in our lives. Dogs can help us to reduce stress, be more active, increase our empathy and decrease loneliness. But what about using what we experience with a dog to rediscover our authentic selves?
Being in the presence of a dog, even from across the street, seems to tap into our heart. A dog permits us to be embrace our inner playful self and perhaps be more outgoing than we usually might be. We are much more likely to interact with others when there is a dog to provide an opportunity for relaxed interaction.
A Dog’s Joy is Contagious
Have you ever noticed when walking your dog the change in someone’s facial expression when they see your furry friend? Someone who initially may appear to be furious, sad, angry or just expressionless suddenly has a brightness in their eyes and their whole face lights up. Their posture and mannerisms often become more open and welcoming.
Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., Psychology Today.
When I visit dog parks and talk with people about what I call “the lube effect,” I learn that dogs pull people together, including individuals who might not otherwise socially interact, in many different ways.
Dogs Only Want Us to Be Our Authentic Selves
Some of us have very busy minds and are constantly thinking about what needs to be done next instead of being in the moment. We are always on the move, doing something and running on adrenaline. If you are someone who would like to slow down, and be more present, observe a dog.
Be with the dog and notice how they mosey along. How there is no rush to go anyplace, just to be here. Notice how the dog cherishes the importance of every moment. They don’t have anyone else they want to be with, except us. We have their full attention. If we sit with them, pet their fur, and take the time to play with them, we can embrace this mindfulness. While spending time with the dog, notice if we are more in our bodies, and in the experience, instead of in our heads.
What Can a Dog Teach Us About Our Relationships?
If being present, and more joyful is what we want for ourselves, then spending time with a dog, and knowing what that experience is like, can help us learn that. We can apply what we’ve absorbed to our relationships and the important people in our lives.
Modeling our dog’s behaviors that we appreciate, and find delightful, can help us discover more happiness by helping us to identify what’s important in our relationships.
We can take what we’ve learned and apply these behaviors in our relationships such as…
- Being more open to relaxed interaction.
- Realizing being playful is fun.
- Being accepting of our flaws, and of others.
- Listening with an open mind.
- Not being judgmental.
- Embracing everyday experiences.
Then we may be able to feel more comfortable with our authentic selves and thus enhance our relationships. Loving dogs can bring us happiness, but loving our authentic selves can help us connect with who we truly are.
Loving Dogs Can Help Us Love Ourselves
If you struggle with discovering the sparkle in life, or you find yourself going through the motions of each day, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance & Counseling located on Long Island can help. Our licensed therapists have helped many people become mindful of, and embrace their authentic selves.
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