The expression “going to the dogs” means things aren’t going all that well. But psychotherapist Douglas Green suggests that dogs know a few happiness secrets. In his newly published book, The Teachings of Shirelle: Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead (www.CavalleriaPress.com and at www.askshirelle.com), he offers advice from the point of view of a friendly dog. Here are seven lessons worth going to the dogs for.
- Forget that you have a past and a future. Pooches live in moment all the time, but our brains constantly refocus on tomorrow, next summer, and yesterday. However, we can pause for moments. Try it right now. Treat this second as the only point that exists. What do you have, what do you need (right now, not for dinner or your retirement), what feels good, what hurts? And once you’re done, go back to your regular mind. Try this a few times a day.
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Even the least selfish person often has trouble relating to others. When you’re positive someone else’s point of view is evil and insane, try to admit, instead, that we all have similar brains and then figure out what led them there. Once you do, you can still disagree but you’ll have lost the unhealthy prejudice. After all, dogs mostly find us incomprehensible, but they still love us and try to follow our thinking. If you can do this, your humility might make you as lovable as…okay, not quite as lovable as Marley, but closer than you are now.
- Pollute less. All animals pollute, but humans are the only ones brilliant enough to create materials that don’t serve the earth at all. When you throw a plastic bag out, or dump millions of gallons of toxins into an ocean, you can’t just kick some dirt over it and make your mess okay, the way mutts can. A dog would suggest, and request, that you simply improve.
- Find more moments to enjoy. When you open your front door in the morning, you know what goes through your dog’s head? The smells! The hit of fresh air with an unexpected temperature! Hundreds of sounds suddenly so clear! Millions of things to see! Do you take in the sky? Do you count the stalks of grass? Do you check to see if there are any squirrels or ants or bees or lizards or even cats in sight? And that’s only one moment. Each day has 86,400 seconds in it. Do you spend even one just rolling in what is?
- Sleep just a bit more. One reason dogs tend to be so healthy and active is that they grab z’s whenever they can. What if you found a way to go to bed just a half hour earlier tonight? Or to take a nap this afternoon? Maybe record that TV show, curl up, count sheep, and see what happens to your mood, your skin, your work skills, and even how others treat you.
- Be silly. People say dogs are clowns, for the way they act when they see a leash or dinner. What’s wrong with that? Silliness is a celebration of life. When is the last time you ran around in a sprinkler on a hot day? Sang so loud you hurt your vocal cords? Or barked in conversation with a dog? Silliness is any action that would normally make you blush, and it actually helps you overcome your fear and shame.
- Tell and show people you’re crazy about them. At the end of a long day, do you tell your family how happy you are to see them? Do you find ways to express your feelings about your coworkers? Just let it out! Jump on a friend and kiss the top of their head. Yell across a business networking confab, “I have the best assistant in the world!” And call your mother and tell her you’re grateful.