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4 Important Lessons Your Dog Teaches You

4 Important Lessons Your Dog Teaches You

He came as a 3 week old ball of fur that could fit into the palm of my hand. Close to near starvation, he still prioritized wagging his tail for me over finding some food for himself. It was love at first sight, if you don’t believe in love at first sight, get a dog. I had him for 12 years. That meant hundreds of chewed up shoes thrown away, bagfuls of dog hair coated clothes discarded, buckets of dog poop scooped up, daily barking sprees suffered and an entire childhood spent smelling like, well, a dog.

It’s a big responsibility and a huge pain, no amount of puppy eyes can sugar coat that fact of life. Another grudging fact of life is that somewhere in between the poop scooping and mindless barking, they change you. They mend your heart and grow your mind. They make you believe in the goodness of life and the beauty of the world. Heck, they even give you faith. All those lofty ideas that we roll our eyes at, they make them a reality. They sit there grossly licking themselves, and all the while, your world changes.

My dog was the best living being I ever knew. Here are a few things he taught me, a few things that these dirty furry creatures unknowingly teach their families (Yes, that’s a ‘he’, not an ‘it’, they are people, and they are better than most people).

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1. They teach you forgiveness

You forget to feed them, they lick you. You forget to walk them, they lick you. You may not have a single second for them the entire day but at the first tired glance you accidentally give them, they lick you. Imagine getting that kind of complete forgiveness and acceptance every single day.

Imagine living with the absolute certainty that no matter what you do and who you become, there is always this little ‘creature-person’ who will accept you with a thumping tail and happy barks (also unfortunately a very wet gross tongue that manages to find your nose every single time). When you get that kind of acceptance, you begin to give it as well. Just a little bit though, we are after all mere humans, can’t compete with a dog.

2. They teach you love, crazy real fearless love

They love you like that. This is a dog’s logic – she played with me, so now, when required, I will die for her. The most ridiculous thought process ever, the most amazing way to love ever. They teach you how to let your guards down and love someone with all you’ve  got. Without fear, without conditions and with complete vulnerability.

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It’s not just how they love you, but also how you end up loving them. When you have a dog you know he will probably go before you, in fact you hope that he does, so that he always has you to take care of him. But then, you end up loving someone with your full heart, knowing full well that they will pass away before you. You open yourself to love with the knowledge that it will hurt one day. That’s the kind of love this world needs, that kind of strong, unconditional, courageous love. A dog teaches you that.

3. They make you less cynical

It’s a complicated world, demanding and selfish, difficult to remain childlike and optimistic. Not so much if you have an irritating four legged friend whose only aim in life is to make you throw the ball. Every morning when you have a hundred things on your to do list the only thing on their to do list is ‘wag tail, lick this guy’. Every night when you are dead tired and completely frustrated with the boss, they just cluelessly prance about doing their happy little dance because you are back home.

I dare you to stay cynical in the face of that! Just try to behave like an adult while playing tug of war with a dog; you will be 5 years old in less than 5 seconds. Their innocence and pointless happiness is contagious. Their undying optimism that any second someone will play with them teaches you how to hope, how to stop being negative and just smile. Just throw the ball and smile.

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4. They make you strong

He got old and quietly passed away one night. The next day we buried him and I went to work. I didn’t mention it to most people for fear that they wouldn’t really understand my pain. It was just a dog. Just a dog, but even in his passing he made me stronger. Facing his absence prepared me to face life better. If you have been through that, you can go through a lot.

People tell me they don’t want to keep a dog because they don’t want to go through the pain of loss. It’s not pain, its strength. It’s not loss; it’s the gain of priceless memories. It’s not a tragedy you go through, it’s just life and it makes you grow up. Let a child love and lose a pet, the adult would be an infinitely stronger and better human being.

As a child I remember being asked what I want to be when I grow up. My answer was ‘a dog’. It sounded really stupid and I got quite a few laughs. It still sounds really stupid, I’l give you that, but it’s still true. Call me crazy, but if we could have one tenth the good qualities of those perpetual ‘tail waggers’ and chronic ‘face lickers’, this world would be a happier, safer place.

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So next time you see a homeless tail wagging at you, think about it, really think about bringing him home. It makes home more home, it makes us more human.

Featured photo credit: janetroper.com via janetroper.com

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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