5 Things I Learned From My Dog While Working From Home
I have a t-shirt that my brother bought me that says “I work hard so my dog can have a better life.” It was one of those ‘it’s funny because it’s true’ type gifts. All I have to say to that is Alaska (my dog) is treated like the queen that she is...and she deserves it! The thing is, she has been incredibly important to me and my mental health ever since I adopted her five years ago. I live alone. And with almost all of my friends being married with kids, it can sometimes feel very lonely. Add this pandemic to the mix, and it has been a rough time when it comes to feeling isolated and alone. That’s where my dog has been an absolute godsend. I’ve spent almost every waking moment with my dog this year as I work from home right now, and I have become more aware of how she is in the world, meaning her behaviors, personality, and responses to different things. From this, I have learned a few things from her that I think can actually improve my well-being. Before you think this is too far out there, read on and (maybe) learn something from my dog:
The Five Things I Learned
1. Sometimes just being there is exactly what someone needs. - It’s really hard to watch someone you love struggle or be in pain without trying to fix it or make it better. I know this better than anyone as I’m an empath that feels deeply and would rather take on everyone else’s pain than have to watch them go through it. But my dog has shown me how important it can be to just be there with and for someone when they are going through it. Alaska (as so many dogs can) knows when I’m having a rough day and will just sit by me with her head on my lap. She doesn’t try to get me to pet her or give me lots of licks; she just is there as long as I need her to be.
2. Getting outside & moving your body can make your day. - Since I live in an apartment in the city, I need to walk my dog every day, twice a day. While she absolutely adores these walks, no matter what the weather, I have definitely had many times that I wished for a backyard to let her out...until recently. If it wasn’t for Alaska, I would definitely have had whole weeks where I didn’t leave my home. On top of that, there have been days (and weeks) where it has been hard to motivate myself to move my body. But I’ve always had these twice daily 30-60 minute walks, and I’ve started to realize how rejuvenating they are for me. Simple and not an IG-worthy ‘workout’, but these walks do more for my mental health than I ever gave them credit for. What they say about fresh air and movement is true!
3. Shake it off & move on. - At some point during this pandemic, one of my colleagues shared an article about how dogs will do a full body shake to ‘shake off’ stress and tension that they are feeling. (So sorry...I tried to find the exact article to link it, but couldn’t. However, if you do a search online, there are tons of sources confirming this.) After reading that, I started paying closer attention to when my dog did a full body shake and what preceded that. Sure enough, unless she’s wet, almost all of her full body shakes come after some sort of stressful situation for her. It’s wild! So I’ve started to think that maybe it’s something that I need to do. Instead of sitting with the stress and discomfort, perhaps standing up and shaking or dancing is a great way to release it.
4. Human touch is a critical component of well-being. - Before the pandemic, I never paid much attention to how often I pet my dog. She isn’t a super needy dog constantly trying to get me to pet her. However, I started to notice that she gets very vocal in the morning if I do anything before petting her after I wake up & get out of bed. And she has started coming to me three times a day (around 10am, 1pm, and 4pm) for me to pet her. She will sweetly put her head on my lap while I work, and, come on, who can resist that. When I read recently about the benefits of hugging and human touch for humans, it instantly made me think of Alaska. Since I live alone, I’m acutely aware of my lack of human touch and how often I just want to hug someone again. So I encourage you to pay attention to how much human touch you have on a daily basis and perhaps ask for more, even if it’s just a high-five (I sure do miss those too!)
5. Sleep more. - Sleep has been a big topic of discussion as an important factor of health & wellness so I won’t belabor this point. I just want to say that seeing my dog get in so many naps and still sleep at night is an inspiration. And I think it might contribute to how happy she seems all of the time, even when we have to walk outside in a downpour! But seriously, we all need to sleep more (myself included!), and I’m using my dog as an excuse to highlight that.
One final fun fact that I wanted to share about dogs that I think is pretty cool, and it has to do with staring into your dog’s eyes. (For those of you who don’t have a dog, I wouldn’t do this unless you know the dog really well.) It turns out that mutual staring between humans and dogs can release the hormone oxytocin, which is one of the ‘happy hormones.’ Plus, it’s known to boost feelings of love and trust. And now I’m obsessed trying to stare into the eyes of my dog!