THE POWER OF THE DOG – AND CAT, ETC. –  

Mar. 24 2022 –  Being brought back to the present with your pet can happen in a variety of ways. Maybe you’re walking your dog, or listening to your cat’s purrs, watching your goldfish swim, your hamster run in its wheel. It’s no coincidence that all of these practices — walking, paying attention to repetitive sound and motion, enjoying nature — are all recommended ways to unlock mindful moments. 

“The foundations of mindfulness include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness,” Dr. Ann Berger, a National Institutes of Health researcher who teaches mindfulness to people living with pain, told the NIH’s News in Health newsletter. “All of those things are things that animals bring to the table. People kind of have to learn it. Animals do this innately.”

Of course, many of the benefits associated with being around animals comes with the caveat that the animal is calm and well-behaved. For many owners of pets with behavioral issues, having a dog may hamper efforts to bring mindfulness into your life by adding more stressors.”It’s hard to get our baseline of calm when we have dogs with reactivity,”  Grisha Stewart, a dog trainer who focuses on positive training methods, said in a recent episode of the popular dog-training podcast Drinking from the Toilet.

But even a challenging animal presents opportunities to practice mindfulness. “Sometimes I’ll modulate my breathing so they’ll [dogs] relax,” Stewart said. “If we learn to observe our breath better, we can observe our dogs better, more closely, and observe what they actually want.”

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