Today, Wednesday 5th April, is International Calm Day and what can be more calming than a dog? Meditation with a dog? Possibly!
In this increasingly busy world, owning a dog can help make your life much calmer, healthier and happier. Anyone who has a dog, will tell you how their worries disappear when they walk through the door to be greeted by their dog’s wagging tail, sheer joy and excitement to see you, no matter if you have been away for 5 minutes or 5 hours, their unconditional love and happiness is contagious.
Dogs make us laugh, they are attentive and keep you company, they don’t care whether you are angry, sad, happy or anxious they will always be by your side, they are sociable, they love you unconditionally (well unless you are eating a bacon sandwich!), they love to be stroked and cuddled, they love to play, they keep us young at heart in mind, body and spirit.
There is so much scientific evidence out there to prove that owning a dog can; lower blood pressure, increase circulation, reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, improve cardiovascular health and relieve depression however, for me, owning dogs has helped with my illness, having ME/CFS can be isolating, frustrating, exhausting, depressing and some days you don’t have the energy, or the will, to get out of bed, you could stay hidden away forever.
Since we have had Barney and Sandy they have helped my recovery without even knowing it. They seem to know when I need comfort and rest, they will settle down next to me, snuggle in, keep me warm and remind me that I am loved. They give me structure to my day, feeding them, reminds me to feed myself, learning about good nutritious food for them, has helped me understand that to get better I need to feed my body good, wholesome food and not to replace meals with a bag of crisps and biscuits, because I’m too tired to make a smoothie or lunch. No matter how tired I feel, I manage a walk, come rain or shine I get outside in nature with them, even if I have to stop and rest through out the walk, they don’t mind, they are happy to sit with me or sniff around for a while. Playing with them makes me laugh, watching them play together makes me laugh, as adults we don’t laugh half as much as we did as children.
When we rescued Barney as a puppy, I was fighting against my illness, trying to keep going, pushing to get things done just as I always had, pushing to make sure everything was perfect. Through Barney I learnt to rest when he slept (puppies sleep a lot!) at first it wasn’t proper rest, I felt guilty about doing nothing, but watching Barney just settle down helped me to stop, learn to calm my nervous system down and really allow my body to rest.
Then we rescued our beautiful girl Sandy, a year ago, at the height of my constant anxiety, she was terribly scared, nervous and anxious. Together, over time, our anxiety has lessened, I know that dogs pick up on how we are feeling, so if I am anxious, it will make Sandy more anxious, being calm has helped Sandy to become calmer and feel safe, the difference is amazing to see in her and me!
So, on International Calm Day, maybe owning a dog can be compared to meditation, I know our lives have been enriched by having Sandy and Barney, we wouldn’t change a thing.
My meditation mantra? “Be more dog like”.