If you could describe your ideal-self, how would it sound? Would you be fitter? Healthier? Wealthier?
Describing your ideal-self is quite confronting as it inevitably points out aspects of yourself that you don’t like, or at the very least, want to improve upon. But the truth is, no matter how successful we are, there is always room for improvement.
When I talk about being your best, I don’t mean acquiring money, fame, or status. If who you are is defined by external pressures, you can never be truly happy. Psychological research shows that those of us whose success is determined by external validation are never open to self-improvement. Unsurprisingly, those who are driven by fame and fortune are the least content!
Being your best comes from within. It comes from a sense of self-worth, a positive attitude and an outlook on life that is filled with compassion and resilience. When I think of those around me who are always willing to be their best, despite life’s inevitable drawbacks, I think of my dogs. Dogs have extraordinary resilience and motivation. They are always looking for opportunities to make the most of their lives and seem to bring along a positive outlook wherever they go. So, this got me to thinking about how our dogs can show us the way to self-improvement, simply just by being themselves.
Amongst all the life-lessons our dogs can teach us, I have come up with 5 simple ways your dog can lead you on a path towards being your absolute best.
1. Learn to be patient
Whilst dogs may not be inherently patient, they are certainly better at it than we are. Having lived by our sides for tens of thousands of years, dogs have learnt to wait for us, tolerate our ignorance and accept that they can’t always have what they want. We can learn a lot from this. When we have a sense of immediacy or are frustrated by something, our dogs can teach us to take a step back and wait. Take time out for yourself and realise that instant gratification never makes us better people.
2. Be more reflective
Whenever I feel stressed or disappointed, I ask myself what I could have done to improve the situation, without doubting myself as a person. If we are willing to accept our mistakes and use them as opportunities to grow, then mistakes can help us be our best. Dogs have an incredible ability to learn quickly. They are always thinking and changing to adapt to this world, unafraid to acknowledge where they have gone wrong and what they can do to change it.
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3. Move more
Such a simple and obvious tip, but exercise really does help us to be our best. A release of hormones in our blood stream when we move-about makes exercise not only a physically beneficial, it improves our mental health as well. Research in dog behaviour shows that when a dog is playing and moving-about with their owner, their brain experiences similar benefits. Dogs who don’t exercise are less happy and more destructive. We see the same with people. It is no surprise then that there is a correlation between children who play computer games and aggression. The less we move about, the more miserable we seem to be. Taking your dog for a simple walk, or playing with the ball in the yard can have significant health benefits for you both.
4. Get better sleep
Dogs sleep on average 18 hours a day. Humans sleep less than half this amount, with many only catching 5-6 hours each night. A reduction of good quality sleep is linked to a range of health issues including heart disease and stroke. So why aren’t we sleeping as well as our dogs? Too much technology before bedtime is one contributing factor. So, instead of scrolling through facebook or watching TV, try to calm your mind by spending quality time cuddling up to your dog.
5. Think from another’s point of view
Something I always tell owners to do is think more from their dog’s point of view. Dogs need us to show them empathy and compassion, as this world is full the unpredictable and uncontrollable. Try applying this to everyone in your life, particularly those who you are not especially close to. Being empathic can help you to understand where someone else is coming from, even if you don’t agree with them. It helps to make you more understanding and patient and is shown to reduce frustration and anxiety.
When we take a leaf out of our dog’s proverbial book, we open our heart and mind to becoming our best. Dogs are wonderful teachers and provide an honest reflection of who we are. A happy and balanced dog generally reflects these sentiments in their owner. What does your dog say about you?
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