Happiness is not just a state, but also a skill set that anyone can learn and apply. What that means is that through intentional practices, we can actually change the neural pathways of our brain to become happier. In fact, only 10% of our happiness is due to our external circumstances and a full 90% is based on our inner environment. Let’s practise happiness with our furry best friends daily – it’s more fun that way!
Mindfulness, Focus, Mindset
Let’s practise mindfulness and start the week with positive mindset. Mindfulness – the ability to live each moment as it unfolds and accept it without judgment – can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, enhance emotional intelligence and better your health.
Practise mindfulness when walking your dog. Focus your attention on the present moment – feel the air, breathe, slow down, let your dog sniff around and take you places, engage all your senses and breathe. Let your steps be in unison with your dog’s, tune in to their energy and connect with your dog in a deeper level.
Take small pauses throughout the day – your dog is a good barometer. He’ll let you know when he wants a cuddle or a belly rub or when he’s hungry or needs to go outside.
Gratitude, Appreciation, Love
Developing a regular gratitude practice is one of the easiest ways to counter the brain’s negativity, or the tendency to cling to the negative things in our environment. By intentionally focusing on the good parts of your day, the positivity will grow.
When humans let you down, think about your dogs and how grateful to have these loving animals in your life. They love you unconditionally and without judgement. When you’re having a bad day at work, think how happy and excited your dogs will be when you’re home. You’re their world!
We can also take cue from our furry best friends – Each morning is the start of a new good day – Every meal time is a celebration – Every walk is a brand new adventure, and – Each moment spent with you is precious. Count your blessings daily – it has a measurable, positive effect on your wellbeing.
Body Wellness, Motivation, Self-Compassion
Happiness is good for your health, and vice versa. Happier people have better overall health and live longer than their less happy peers. Taking care of your physical wellness may well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all. Know your body, listen to your body and nurture it.
Here are simple steps to achieving wellness together with your furry best friends:
Eat a balanced and healthy diet
I often joke that my dog eats better than I do, and I care more about what I feed my dog than what I put into my own body. Perhaps it’s time to clear out all the crap we pour into our bodies and replace it with good, wholesome, nourishing foods. There are also plenty of homemade healthy treat recipes online both you and your dog can have.
Go for a jog or run or swim with your dog. Take a hike and enjoy nature at the same time. Play a game of tug-of-war with your dog – it can help build your upper body strength. Go to a dog park and play a game of fetch with your dog – this will get you outside, moving and socialising with other dog owners as well.
Meditation and yoga with your dog (Doga)
It’s a great mindfulness exercise and a fantastic way to bond with your furry best friend.
Getting enough sleep is necessary to feel our best physically and mentally. Catch a nap with your dog – let his breath and warmth relax you and guide you into a la la land.
Compassion, Giving Back, Altruism
Happiness and altruism are intimately linked. Giving and helping others release endorphins, activating the parts of our brains that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. Being altruistic and spending money on others leads to higher levels of happiness than spending it on oneself.
There are so many animal and dog charities out there who always welcome any volunteers, donation and support to help save more animals. You can consider adoption or becoming a foster carer. You can host an event or a bake sale to fundraise for a charity, or perhaps ask your friends and families to donate to your nominated charity as a birthday gift. There’s a lot more you can do to give back – really the only limit is your imagination!
Authenticity, Vulnerability, Forgiveness, Letting Go
Be your authentic self. When you embrace an authentic and vulnerable stance to life, people will meet you there in that openness, allowing you to experience true connection. Forgiveness is a by-product of living authentically and vulnerably. It is an internal process of letting go of negative emotions, thoughts and behaviours, and replacing those with positive emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Practising forgiveness has tangible benefits for your success, freedom and happiness.
We can all learn forgiveness from rescue dogs – they had terrible lives – abused and neglected – but when they’re shown love and care, they’re ready and capable of loving again. They’re able to leave the past behind and move on with their life.
Dogs are also a good judge of character. They see through the bullshit and facade that we, humans often put on. They love you unconditionally, they don’t ask you to conform, they accept you for who you are. Take cue from your furry best friend and let him guide you to find your authentic self.
Social Connection, Nature Connection, Empathy
Our busy lives often leave us stretched for time to connect with others. Technology connects us more, yet often it hinders real socialisation. Science suggests that social connection should be at the top of our to-do lists, by this means real, in-person connection.
You can put your dog pics on social media, and get many likes and followers, but what does it do to your dog? They don’t get any satisfaction or socialisation from social media. They want real engagement, like meeting and playing with other dogs in a dog park, for example.
Study found that having a dog makes you twice as approachable and people are more likely to start a conversation with you. Your dog can lead you to relationships that can last a long time.
There are also more and more pet friendly places where your furry best friend can join in your Saturday’s social activities. Here are some ideas – take your dog shopping or to a cafe, go on a winery tour or a weekend retreat, arrange a puppy playdate and picnic in the park, or join in a community dog walk or hike.
Meaning, Purpose, Strengths, Soul
At some point in your life, you’d come to realise that life is temporary and you’d wonder, ‘Why am I here? What’s my life purpose? What can I do to make my life more meaningful?’
As we grow and navigate ourselves in the world we live in, we’re socially conditioned to think, feel and behave a certain way. We’re told, ‘If you work hard, you’ll be successful. If you’re successful, you’ll be happy.’ But recent discoveries show that this formula is backward – happiness fuels success, not the other way around.
For many people, finding their purpose in life can be a winding quest, filled with many twists and turns. Some blindly follow passions that aren’t based in reality, then wind up feeling discouraged when their dreams don’t materialise. Others resign themselves to careers that bring them money and status, but aren’t fulfilling. In both cases, over time, their sense of purpose can begin to fade.
Find your ‘IKIGAI’
IKIGAI is a Japanese word meaning the reason for being. It is that sweet spot where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for. IKIGAI is about finding joy, fulfilment and balance in the daily routine of life.
To discover your IKIGAI, you must first find what you’re most passionate about, then the medium which you can express that passion. If you’re passionate about dogs, perhaps your furry best friends can lead you to find your IKIGAI.
Riesa Renata is a designer, blogger, content creator, wife and mum to a 3-year-old Labrador, Bowie. She continually strives to practise happiness with the help of her fur-mate. Bowie is the inspiration of her IKIGAI, and together they want to inspire other dog owners to live the fullest and happiest life with their dogs.