Want to Live a Happier (and Healthier) Life? Take a Hint From Your Dog

From reducing stress and anxiety to providing companionship, our pets can provide support and motivation to live healthier lives

If you have ever had a dog, or any pet for that matter, you probably are already aware of the ways that they can support our well-being. From reducing stress and calming anxiety to providing companionship to combat loneliness, our pets can provide support and motivation to live healthier lives. It may seem like you are the one caring for your pet, but in many ways, they are the ones caring for you.

And I know this better than anyone because I am the proud mom of a very snuggly Jack Russell Terrier named Jake. While I have taught Jake a few tricks over the years, I realized that he has taught me a few as well.

Jake taught me the importance of rest and recovery. He’s a champion napper—always prioritizes getting enough rest. And he understands the importance of proper hydration—he drinks a lot of water. (Perhaps because that’s the only beverage option I offer him.) And of course, he eats right. Never skips a meal.

And when it comes to exercise, Jake has shown me that it doesn’t always have to be about hot yoga or a spin class. If all you have time for is a quick walk around the neighborhood with Rover, at least you’ve left your couch—or if you work from home, your desk—for 15 minutes. You also get to start and end your day with the same bit of exercise, and some quality time with your dog.

He’s also taught me a lot about living in the moment. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been out of the house for two days or two minutes, Jake is always excited to see me. When we’re together, I know he won’t be checking his smartphone—although I did give him a stuffed one to play with. He focuses on me. So, I focus on him. And being present with your loved ones is a great way to calm and center yourself.

When it comes to building social connections, pets can teach us a lot! As a dog, Jake is a pack animal, so he understands the importance of having others to connect with and rely on. And no matter what happens, Jake shows his pack unconditional love, without judgement. Whether you think of your friends as a posse or a pack, it’s essential to have others you can talk to, share experiences with, and connect with. And as Jake has taught me, your pack will always have your back, forgive your mistakes, and love you just the way you are.

You don’t have to own a pet to reap the benefits that these loving animals provide. If you don’t have a pet of your own, go volunteer at a local shelter. The dogs or cats (and the people!) will be happy to see you. Do something good for them and they’ll do something good for you. A little unconditional love never hurt anyone.

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