Being more like dogs can help our wellbeing
Fluctuating mental health affects us all. And, after the year we’ve all had, it’s completely understandable that our wellbeing might be a little more dinted than usual: be it with the challenges of working from home, the lack of social contact or Zoom fatigue. But then we look over at the pup beside us...
Snoozing away with happy dreams of chasing toys and belly rubs, they appear rested and content but still able to summon buckets on energy and focus when needed. It makes us think, could we learn something from our canine colleagues?
With our friends at Luminate - the corporate wellbeing and mental health consultancy - we ask how being more ‘dog’ could benefit our working wellbeing.
1) Keep a routine
How long can you get away with another press of the snooze button? Chances are the alarm clock is more forgiving than your pup. Dogs love routine, and whether they’re waking you up for a trip to the bathroom, or hungry for breakfast, our furry friends are great at getting us out of bed and ready to start the day. They have their regular meals, walks, play times and bedtime.
Routine helps our sense of wellbeing - especially in current times. It helps us feel more in control in an otherwise chaotic world, helping dispel potential feelings of anxiety and aiding time management - a crucial skill in the world of work.
It is important to develop discipline around our working patterns and to create clear boundaries around our start/finish times in order to manage stress effectively, as there will always be more to do… such is the nature of work.
2) Enjoy walk time
Having or borrowing a dog gets you away from your desk at least once or twice during the working day, out in the fresh air and exercising.
Having access to a dog not only results in an average of 3,000 extra steps a day, it gives us time to clear our heads and enjoy nature. But what we can really learn from ‘walkies’ is how to be more mindful - mindfulness defined as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
During ‘walkies’, a dog is truly present; having a good sniff of the grass, watching the birds flying overhead and simply taking in the ongoing moment. Watch Wicket, the spaniel, taking one of her favourite walks and experience walking mindfully like a dog.
Practicing mindfulness in our day-to-day - as we can do on dog walks - can help improve our mood, combat stress, and support emotional regulation, working memory and our ability to focus.
As well as walking, a lot of pups enjoy a good run around; chasing a ball or toy and releasing some pent-up energy. Not only does this keep them physically fit, but it benefits their mental wellbeing too.
And the same goes for human beings. Exercise releases endorphins that help tackle feelings of stress and low mood; it oxygenates the blood, making us feel calmer and more energised; and physical exertion means we’re more likely to get a good night's sleep - a key pillar of positive wellbeing.
4) Interact with others
It’s fair to say that not all dogs like people, nor other dogs. However, many still enjoy sniffing a passing pup in greeting and, in that moment, give that other dog their undivided attention. And we too could learn from these attentive, community-based interactions.
Humans naturally operate in social groups or tribes, with having a sense of personal community being crucial to good mental health. Although we are still somewhat separated by the fluctuating laws of lockdown, it is more important than ever to foster connections with others and build a sense of community.
At work, this can involve scheduling regular catch-ups over coffee (via video chat) - where you can check in, one-on-one with your teammates and ask ‘how are you?’ in earnest. Should they open up, listen non-judgmentally, refrain from giving advice, signpost further support and reassure them you’re always there.
Outside of work, this might look like messaging a friend you haven’t heard from for a while or knocking on your neighbour’s door to see if they need anything from the shops.
Building these connections not only improves your wellbeing, but lets the individuals you’re reaching out to feel more connected and supported too.
5) Take regular breaks
With deadlines looming and work piling up, it can be easy to plough on and not take time to reset. And while your boss might not be happy with you napping all afternoon like puppies (who in general sleep a whopping 18 hours a day) we can still take a lesson from our canine colleagues, about taking regular breaks.
Breaks are key for refreshing our minds and can help put a situation into perspective. We feel mentally exhausted if we don’t take time to pause and renew throughout the day.
Pressing pause, even if only for 10-minutes, can help us manage our energy and relieve mental fatigue, ultimately helping our productivity at work.
6) Take time to be calm
As anyone with a new puppy or slightly more anxious or hyperactive dog knows, it can be a challenge to calm them down when they’re getting overexcited. But still, we sit there with them until they settle. Unfortunately, we often don’t give ourselves the same time to find calm, but if we did we would surely see the benefits.
Introducing some mindful moments to your day allows you to check in with your body and your mind and, crucially, respond.
Paying attention to our inner states and our body is an act of self care that allows us to better understand what we need at that time - to feel content, productive or simply ‘well.’
Alongside taking regular breaks, slowing down at work looks like leaving a little bit of extra time to get to places / between Zoom calls so you don’t have to rush. There is a difference in our mindset when we’re able to conduct our business at a more leisurely pace. We can get into the habit of rushing even when we’re not short of time, so be conscious of this.
Spending time with dogs is shown to improve our mental wellbeing and 80% of BorrowMyDoggy members felt less stressed after spending time with a dog. Through BorrowMyDoggy for Work, employers can not only help their dog-owning staff with dog care, but can allow those without dogs to experience the mental and physical wellbeing benefits of lasting friendships with dogs and their owners in the local community.
There’s so much we can learn from dogs, including how to improve our workday wellbeing. Being more like dogs can benefit us all.
If you’re looking for any additional wellbeing support for you employees get in touch with Luminate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 637 7417.