Everybody says that time flies by.
One day, you’re bringing home a new puppy, and before you know it, they’re grey in the muzzle and you can’t remember what life was like before they came along.
Sometimes, time flies when we’re having fun, but it’s often because we’re spending too much time micromanaging, overthinking, and over-stressing.
Mindfulness is, simply put, living in the moment. It’s about slowing down and taking in your surroundings and experiences without judgement.
Dogs are our greatest teachers of mindfulness. They don’t care how long it takes them to do five laps around the park, as long as they can sniff every tree, leaf and flower along the way.
What We’re Missing When We Walk Our Dogs
Walking your dog provides them with potty opportunities, mental stimulation and exercise that they need whether or not you have a fenced-in backyard. Even if you’re totally disengaged, they’re getting some of these benefits.
When your attention is split between the walk and your smartphone, however, you do miss a lot. You miss the little things that make each walk special. It might be a little moment, like a ladybug crossing your path.
But it might even be a big moment, like the first time your reactive dog notices a cat without going absolutely bonkers, an excellent opportunity to celebrate a step forward in your dog’s behaviour – this could be easily missed if you’re not “in the moment.”
What You’ll Get Out Of Mindful Dog Walks
Mindfulness has been researched in scientific studies to have physical, emotional and mental health benefits. Over time, you can learn to control your emotions so one tiny mishap won’t ruin your whole day. You can become more in-tune with others and better get along with people – and dogs – with improved empathy and compassion. You can learn to manage negative thoughts, ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and all-around become a happier person.
As a bonus, spending time with your dog has a positive correlation with your physical health. Dog owners have been shown to have lower cholesterol, a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and a lower BMI.
And yet another bonus, sunlight exposure stimulates your body to produce vitamin D, which can help protect you from depression, keep your bones and your immune system strong, and can even prevent cancer. The amount of sun exposure you need to produce sufficient vitamin D will vary based on the time of day, your skin-tone and the season.
The Trick To Clearing Your Mind On Dog Walks
Do you hate meditating? Many of us have this idea that we have to completely clear our minds. But that’s actually impossible, and not the true goal of meditation. You cannot clear the mental buzz in your brain, but you can manage it by labeling your thoughts.
Whenever your mind drifts elsewhere – what you’ll have for dinner, what you’ll have to do at work – don’t judge yourself. Instead, simply put a label on these thoughts and let them drift away. Then, return your focus to your breathing, your dog’s footsteps, or your five senses.
Just as you have to train your dog to modify unwanted behaviours, you will have to train your mind, over time, to be less cluttered and more focused. Even if you are unable to control your every thought, you’ll become better and better at getting more from your walks every time you make a point to practice mindfulness.
Mindful Dog Walk Exercises
- Use all five of your senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Dogs take in interesting odours by sniffing up to five times per second – what happens when you try it?
- Notice your breathing and footsteps. Also notice the way your dog’s pawsteps as you walk over different textures of terrain.
- Seek out tiny wonders. Look for interesting bugs, rocks and landmarks, and encourage your dog to check them out, instead of always pulling them away from the things that interest them.
- Let your dog walk you. Spend a whole walk allowing your dog to choose which way to go. See if they can lead you all the way home.
- Do a quick body scan. Notice any aches, pains or tension throughout your body. If you feel anxious, notice where the emotion is located and see if you can release it.
- Stay calm if your dog acts up. If your dog starts to bark and lunge at another animal, focus on keeping your breath slow and even. When the moment passes, praise them for returning their attention to you, and continue your walk. Your reaction will impact how quickly your dog is able to calm down again.
Help Your Dog Find Their Zen
Need help achieving peaceful, mindful dog walks? Healthy Houndz provides professional, positive-reinforcement based training for dogs who need gentle help finding their zen. Contact us today!