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Reasons Why Dogs Make Us Happy

1) You’re never alone
A dog is a true pal who will always be there for you, never judges you and is invariably happy to have you around. Imagine: you get out of the wrong side of bed, you’re feeling blue and are simply not yourself this morning. Then along comes your happy four-legged, tail-wagging buddy. Your pooch places their head on your lap and looks at you with those huge, adoring eyes: “Don’t be sad. Why don’t we go outside?” And your bad mood instantly evaporates 🙂

2) You get plenty of fresh air…
… and you will discover the most beautiful places! A dog needs to be walked regularly. Those already accustomed to owning a dog will know that this is certainly no punishment. In fact, in our busy day-to-day lives at work or in front of the computer, it’s great to be able to go outside and catch your breath. Together with your canine companion, you’ll get to know some of the most beautiful parts of your local area. You’ll enjoy daily visits to pretty bushland, parks and beaches where you can truly unwind and your dog can run free. Those taking a daily walk with their dog generally feel happier and healthier, and are lucky enough to experience nature on a regular basis.

3) A dog teaches you about yourself
A dog is like a mirror into your soul: they are totally honest and their response to human behaviour is pure and unfiltered. Your faithful friend will also react directly to your behaviour and emotions. This can be quite confronting: a dog will consistently pick up on your stress, anxiety or anger. Similarly your confidence and composure will also affect your dog. So, take the time to get to know your dog inside out and you’ll become better acquainted with yourself. And that results in a super special bond between you and your dog!

4) A dog encourages fun social contact
A cute dog attracts all the right attention: “What a sweetie! What’s their name?”  And if you’ve ever taken a dog for a walk, you’ll know that you usually bump into other dog owners and enthusiasts. Which is great, because you can share your experiences and the dogs get to play with each other! Of course, you might not always fancy a chat, in which case you can simply say a friendly hello and continue on your way. But if you do wish to meet new people, you’ll find that a dog is a wonderfully sociable friend to have at your side!

5) A dog is good for your health
A dog is extremely good for your health. Not only because it gets you moving, but also because pet ownership can help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and promote the production of endorphins, also known as ‘happy hormones’. Dog owners recover faster and more efficiently after illness, and having a pet also offers health and companionship benefits for the elderly. And children who grow up with dogs are less likely to develop allergies and asthma.

6) A dog brings joy to children
Research has shown that pet ownership is good for both the physical and emotional wellbeing of children – it really is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child! Children confide all of their secrets to their dog, because a dog never judges and is always there to listen. And those who learn about careful and responsible pet ownership at a young age will benefit from it for the rest of their lives. The animals will too, of course!

7) A dog gives meaning to your life
Dog ownership is a huge responsibility and as such it’s essential that you think it through carefully. In your dog’s eyes you’re the master of the universe, the most important person in their life because they are totally dependent on you. As an owner you are responsible for the physical and mental health of this wonderful creature. This might sound daunting, but it’s the real beauty of ownership. Anyone who has ever adopted a dog knows just how great it feels to give such a deserving creature a good home.

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How to Change Unhealthy Habits

Do you ever find yourself standing at the refrigerator when you’re not hungry? Have you ever reached for the one food in your cupboard that is guaranteed to be bad for you?

It’s not just you. We all do it. These are “bad” habits—and habits, by definition, are the things we are so used to that they become our default even when we know better. Instead of using the word “bad,” however, let’s call them “unhealthy”—it’s much more accurate and less judgmental.

Whether it’s not sleeping, lack of exercise, poor food choices, or overindulgence in alcohol—we know these things are not healthy for us. Why do we persist—and just as importantly, how can we stop?

The trick to getting rid of unhealthy habits is to stop justifying our poor choices and rewrite the script so we default to where we want to be. Although positive and affirmative self-talk is powerful, I am not going to whitewash today’s message with unhelpful clichés—which are about as useful as saying “just relax” to someone having a panic attack. Thus, “Just think positively,” or “Flex your willpower muscle” are not on my list of steps towards change. Instead, let’s dive into a really juicy, habit-changing discussion.

Teri Goetz, LAc
Source: Teri Goetz, LAc

First, love yourself into change. The concept is simple. Use some compassion with yourself and notice that your unhealthy behavior is probably an alert that something is off-kilter in your life. Love yourself enough to make some changes. Don’t wait until you hit “rock bottom” to have to make the change.

Most unhealthy habits are in reaction to stress: excessive work (or hating your job), loss, worry, and avoidance of the tough stuff. These kinds of stressors can paralyze us. Change becomes harder than ever and we compensate for the stress by exercising behaviors that, though they are unhealthy, serve a clear purpose for us—whether physical, emotional, or psychological.

10 More Steps to Change Unhealthy Habits

  1. Identify the habits you want to change. This means bringing what is usually unconscious (or at least ignored) to your awareness. It does not mean beating yourself up about it. Make a list of things you’d like to change, and then pick one.
  2. Look at what you are getting out of it. In other words, how is your habit serving you? Are you looking for comfort in food? Numbness in wine? An outlet or connection online? Stress alleviation through eating or nail biting? This doesn’t have to be a long, complex process. You’ll figure it out—and you’ll have some good ideas about how to switch it up for healthier outcomes.
  3. Honor your own wisdom. Here’s a common scenario: You feel like you have no down-time, so you stay up way too late binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix. You know you’ll be exhausted and less productive the next day, but you feel “entitled” to something fun, just for you. Your wisdom, however, knows this is not a healthy way to get it. Use that wisdom to build something into your schedule that will provide what you really want. Realize you do have the answers and are capable of doing something different.
  4. Choose something to replace the unhealthy habit. Just willing yourself to change isn’t enough because it does not address the underlying benefit of the behavior you want to replace. What can you do instead of standing in front of the fridge when you’re stressed? If you have a plan, you will be “armed” with tools and a replacement behavior. Next time you catch yourself not hungry but standing in front of the refrigerator anyway, try a replacement behavior. Some ideas: Breathe in to the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 8, focusing only on your breathing. Do that 4 times and see how you feel. If you need more support, stand there until you come up with one reason why you shouldn’t continue with this habit. This is a key step. When you do something different to replace an unhealthy habit, acknowledge to yourself that you are doing it differently. You need to bring whatever it is that is subconscious to the conscious mind so that you can emphasize your ability to change. It can be as simple as saying to yourself, “Look at that. I made a better choice.”
  5. Remove triggers. If Doritos are a trigger, throw them out on a day you feel strong enough to do so. If you crave a cigarette when you drink socially, avoid social triggers—restaurants, bars, nights out with friends. This doesn’t have to be forever—just for a while, until you feel secure in your new habit. Sometimes certain people are our triggers. Remember that you end up being like the five people you hang out with most. Look at who those people are: Do they inspire you or do they drag you down?
  6. Visualize yourself changing. Serious visualization retrains your brain. In this case, you want to think differently about your ability to change—so spend some time every day envisioning yourself with new habits. Picture yourself exercising and enjoying it, eating healthy foods, or fitting into those jeans. See yourself engaged in happy conversation with someone instead of standing in the back of the room. This kind of visualization really works. The now familiar idea that “nerves that fire together wire together” is based on the idea that the more you think about something—and do it—the more it becomes wired in your brain. Your default choice can actually be a healthier one for you.
  7. Monitor your negative self-talk. The refrain in your brain can seriously affect your default behaviors. So when you catch yourself saying, “I’m fat” or “No one likes me,” reframe it or redirect it. Reframing is like rewriting the script. Replace it with, “I’m getting healthy, or “My confidence is growing.” Redirecting is when you add to your negative self-talk of “I’m fat” with “But I’m working my way into a healthier lifestyle.” Judging yourself only keeps you stuck. Retrain the judgmental brain.
  8. Take baby steps, if necessary. Even if you can’t fully follow through with a new habit right away, do something small to keep yourself on track. For example, if you’ve blocked out an hour to exercise and you suddenly have to go to a doctor’s appointment, find another time to squeeze in at least 15 minutes. That way, you’ll reinforce your new habit, even if you can’t commit 100 percent.
  9. Accept that you will sometimes falter. We all do. Habits don’t change overnight. Love yourself each time you do and remind yourself that you are human.
  10. Know that it will take time. Habits usually take several weeks to change. You have to reinforce that bundle of nerves in your brain to change your default settings.

Bring the process to your awareness by writing it down. It is very easy to forget a new plan that is conceived with best intentions, but never reinforced. For maximum success, take 15 minutes to plan out your new habit, pen in hand.

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5 Secrets to Gaining Perspective During Trying Times

 

Pixaby
Source: Pixaby

There’s no question that in the present moment, we’re facing huge challenges—personally, nationally, and globally. Sometimes it can all be overwhelming, especially if we listen to or watch the news obsessively. This negative energy can affect us to our cores, thereby hurting our overall well-being. It’s very easy to lose perspective.

We all have our own ways of coping with such difficult times. Some people practice relaxation techniques; others turn to exercise, hobbies, friends, family members, and therapists. However, we all need reminders to do so, and we also need to gain perspective on everything that’s going on.

We might feel a sense of hopelessness and an inability to manage our issues, but one thing we can manage is our emotions and reactions. While many people are turning to their own devices and what’s worked for them in the past, our current situation is quite unprecedented, so it might be helpful to learn new coping skills during these times.

Many of our habits and ways of being have been fostered during childhood, and what emerges for me personally is my way of coping with challenges, which has always been through writing. I have my mother to thank for the red-leather Kahlil Gibran journal she gave me back in the 1960s after my grandmother died by suicide in my childhood home. In those days, therapy wasn’t as commonplace as it is now, so people either suppressed their emotions or shared them with close friends or loved ones. I was a quiet 10-year-old, and my mother was dealing with her own grief, so I needed an outlet for my feelings.

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Why Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better

That whole succulent trend? It’s healthy.
Image: Plants in a bedroom

Houseplants are good for your health — and not just for their visual beauty. Why? They essentially do the opposite of what we do when we breathe: release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. This not only freshens up the air, but also eliminates harmful toxins. Extensive research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin in 24 hours. Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15 percent!), reduce stress levels and boost your mood — making them perfect for not just your home but your work space, too.

How to Create your Personal Plant Sanctuary

An indoor garden can be your refuge from the outside world, and for many people it is a source of great joy. Whether you live in a small apartment, or a large house, by introducing certain plants into your home, you will start to notice improvements to your health, and overall happiness. As well as enhancing your mood and creating a living space that is soothing to be in, plants can also help with loneliness and depression: caring for a living thing gives us a purpose and is rewarding — especially when you see that living thing bloom and thrive.