May 7, 2020 Moonshine Minutes
This one’s for you, dog-lovers.
I’m Alex Hoeft, news reporter for Moonshine Ink, and today we’re sharing tips from Dr. Cathy Reimers, a licensed psychologist who’s been helping people manage anxiety and other challenges for over 30 years. Today she’s talking dog mindfulness.
Have you ever walked your dog and suddenly realized you’ve arrived at your destination, but have no idea how you got there? This is a common experience and it’s usually because we put ourselves on autopilot, thinking all kinds of thoughts other than being in the moment. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that we have a dog while we are walking.
Our worries and anxieties can take us a million miles away from the here and now, especially in this time of the novel coronavirus. Anxiety can be thought of as the anticipation of future threats with negative outcomes. It causes us to focus on thoughts and feelings that are spinning out of control, with “what if” being the cornerstone.
Mindfulness, however, teaches us to “be present” in the world, and it functions as an antidote to today’s feelings of fear, helplessness, and anger. If we incorporate a mindfulness meditation into our daily dog walk, there are ways that our dogs can help us manage today’s stresses. Dogs can cue us to engage in less-anxious behavior.
The goal of Dog Mindfulness, an online anxiety reduction program Reimers has developed after three decades as a clinical psychologist, is to help people be less reactive to stress and to reduce both worry and anxiety.
Through a series of daily exercises with their dog, people can learn anxiety reduction techniques that are tailored to cue them into positive behaviors and mindfulness.
Reimers shared the following meditation, which offers the opportunity to practice some Dog Mindfulness program exercises. Practice this exercise for five minutes each time you walk your dog. When you are ready, increase the time to 10 minutes.
To begin, carefully observe your dog’s behavior to identify what sensations they are utilizing in the moment:
- When your dog is sniffing, identify it as the sensation of smell and then begin to smell things around you, too. It may be a pine tree (there are few of those in Tahoe/Truckee), flowers, or the fresh air.
- When you observe your dog looking at something, you also can observe what’s around you in this moment. Pick out the beauty of something nearby.
- Are your dog’s ears perking up? Begin to listen and notice the sounds around you. Try not to apply your interpretation or judgment of the sound; just experience it.
- If your dog starts wagging his or her tail, ask yourself how you are feeling emotionally. Just notice the feeling and try not to change it.
- When your dog comes up to lick your face, focus on touch. It may be the right time to pet and hug your dog.
If your mind wanders off while you practice this meditation, bring your focus back to the sensations. Try to increase your time of focus and notice how you might feel less anxious.
Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend, they can also help decrease the anxiety in your life, as well as inspire thankfulness for the world around you. Read the full article, In the Moment, at moonshineink.com. Then, grab your dog’s leash and head out the door — maybe we’ll see you on the trail.