From a mental health perspective one of my lowest points in life, aside from my Dad's death, was COVID-19 Quarantine. I feel like the depression was so intense because I have personally experienced what it is like to have everything in your life stripped away in the matter of weeks and I was watching it happen to the world. Literally the entire world.
There was one night, in a slew of the many nights that I could not sleep, where I found myself wanting to go to the basement.
The sad truth is that I wanted to go there because that is where we store our weapons. I had no intention of doing anything. Absolutely none. But it felt right to be down there by them.
Charlie, the little Frenchie pictured above, followed me down. Like he always does, during those times he was keenly aware when my anxiety was at its peak.
I sat down and he immediately jumped up and sat next to me. I looked down at him and said, "You're my best friend. You saved my life."
I don't know why I said that because in full transparency I would never in a million years do to that little boy in the picture what my Dad did to me. But sometimes we say and do things that just feel right, and in that moment it felt like the right thing to say.
Charlie isn't trained, I am just his person. I have bonded with many dogs over my lifetime, but none have compared to the bond I have with this 45 lb. beefsteak.
It is scientifically proven that animals, and dogs in particular, drive emotional well-being not just from the physical benefits of caring for them (e.g. going for walks). It is shown that they help with our mental stability. One article that I came across from Psychology Today had two paragraphs that were particularly fascinating to me:
Dogs Teach Us Mindfulness
When your dog lies on the floor, bathing in the sun as it streams through the window, it is doing just that — experiencing the sense of warmth that spans across its body. “Perhaps one of the greatest psychological benefits of interacting with a dog is the opportunity it provides to be more mindful — to purposely focus your attention on the present moment,” reads an article from Harvard Medical School.
Dogs can inspire mindfulness during an ordinary walk. In a New Yorker article, author Frédéric Gros says, “You’re doing nothing when you walk, nothing but walking. But having nothing to do but walk makes it possible to recover the pure sensation of being, to rediscover the simple joy of existing, the joy that permeates the whole of childhood.”
Spending time with dogs, who have a natural capacity to open up to each moment as it unfolds — the sights, sounds, and smells — can motivate us to follow their example. Try taking a cue from your dog, and as you go about your day, take a moment to bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Take a few deep breaths, and notice how that makes you feel. Engage your senses, and savor what is happening around you. Then thank your dog for setting a good example.
And if you’re looking to meditate with your dog, check out Petitations, a website started by Elisabeth Paige, a UC-Davis researcher. Paige found that petting her dogs became her anchor to the present moment, and she has since written a book on how to “petitate” and offers guided meditations on her website.
Dogs Relieve Stress
Life is filled with stressors and to-do lists that never seem to end. Recent studies show the psychological benefits of having a furry friend come to work, and a growing number of companies — Atlantic Health System, Mars Inc., Amazon, and Etsy, to name a few — offer a dog-friendly environment in an effort to reduce stress among employees.
College students are yet another stressed-out population. When the University of British Columbia brought in therapy dogs, providing 246 students with a chance to pet and cuddle during drop-in sessions, the results, published in Stress and Health, were impressive: Students who were surveyed both before and after engaging with the dogs reported a significant decrease in their stress level, along with increased happiness and a higher energy level following the session.
“The results were remarkable,” said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. “We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session.”
Full Article from Psychology Today can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-balance/201804/how-dogs-drive-emotional-well-being
Hug your puppers extra tight today, they deserve it.