Be more puppy!
Get curious and more....
This coming Thursday is ‘National Puppy Day’ which got me thinking. Our fabulous Border Collie pup, Barney, is 14 weeks old. I have 4 illustrations and life tips to share from observing him.
Barney wants to learn about everything! He is exploring and investigating with his nose, paws, and mouth. I turned around the other day to discover he could jump. He’d got up to a table via the sofa. He was having a taste of my house plant.
Now I am not suggesting we start tasting everything but there is much to be said for curiosity. Research has shown curiosity to be associated with higher levels of positive emotions, lower anxiety levels, more satisfaction with life, and greater psychological well-being. I’ve noticed that many people who have struggled with their mental health (me included) are very harsh self-critics Curiosity is a great way to approach our inner critic. Maybe your inner critic is saying something like; “You can’t join that course, you’re not clever enough.” You could respond to that thought with fear or defensiveness. You can quickly become mean and personal with yourself in a way you never would with a friend. Curious questions like: where’s that thought come from? Is that thought based on any truth? Or, what would I say to my friend saying that to themselves? can help you reset, gain confidence and prepare for your next steps.
As well as turning curiosity inwards it’s good to turn it to others. One study asked strangers to pose and answer personal questions. They found that people were rated as warmer and more attractive if they showed real curiosity in the conversation. This suggests that demonstrating curiosity towards someone is a great way to build your closeness with them.
Know and use your safe place
Barney is beginning to meet and interact with other dogs. When he comes across new dogs or ones he is unsure of he goes between my feet. This morning we met Major, who is a friendly Giant Shnauzner. Barney has met him once before but I think his size is a little intimidating. Again Barney greeted him from between my feet. As both tails wagged Barney came out. Barney is safe with me and he knows it. I’m glad he can lean on me to build confidence and gain new skills.
In therapy, I was taught a ‘safe space’ technique to help me ground myself if I got overwhelmed. I highly recommend it. I have it in my toolbox if I ever need it. There are lots of resources online.
I also know that a good friend or family member can help me be in a safe space whilst attempting something new or challenging. There is no shame in asking for support.
Show and receive affection
Barney loves my mum. He always greets her with a furiously wagging tail or a sloppy lick.
Touch is powerful, it doesn’t have to be from a significant other. A hug, a pat on the back from a friend, or the stroke of a pet has powerful effects. These things release the "feel good" hormone, oxytocin which helps inspire positive thinking and an optimistic outlook on the world.
Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure center in your brain which can offset feelings of anxiety.
Physical touch is also known to improve the function of the immune system as well as reduce diseases such as those associated with the heart and blood.
If we meet in person I’m up for a hug.
Another thing Barney is great at is sleeping. We are fortunate that he has slept 8 hrs at night since he came to us. But he also takes lots of long naps. Often in very amusing positions.
If sleep is difficult for you I am sorry. It is such an important thing. There is so much to say about sleep. I have my own story too much to tell now - maybe later. If the subject of sleep interests you Matthew Walker’s Why we sleep is a great book.