Did you make New Year’s Resolutions this year? What are the odds they had something to do with committing to leading a healthier lifestyle? How many times have we all made those same types of resolutions, only to have broken them and feel dejected by February? Many of the resolutions we make around living a healthier lifestyle can be helped along by our pets, without much extra effort on our part—just by actively re-committing to many of the things we already do or should be doing for our pets as well as ourselves. Here are some ways your pets can help you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolution: Get Fit
This is probably the #1 resolution made at New Year’s every year. How many of us are actually successful with truly committing to it and seeing it through to produce a major life change? Many of us start off strong but fall off the wagon just a few weeks into the New Year. Part of making this resolution successful is having a plan and sticking with it. This is where your dog can really help you out – we all know most of our dogs live for their daily walks. If that’s something you already do together, take it one step further and plan out some new routes that are just a bit longer, and gradually add to the length of the walks every couple of weeks. Eventually, you will build up stamina and endurance, as will your dog, and you will both be burning more calories than you realize on your daily strolls. Just getting out there can be the jump start for your health and fitness goals.
Resolution: Try Something New
If you’ve committed to stepping outside your comfort zone and embracing a new challenge as part of your New Years Resolutions, your pets can help you out here too. There are tons of activities that are dog-friendly that help you meet new people and try new activities, like hiking groups, obedience classes, agility courses, and more. Although taking that first step might be tough at first, you might just meet some new friends and find an activity both you and your pet really enjoy and can strengthen your bond over, all while expanding your horizons.
Resolution: Stress Less
Many of us lead stress-filled lives that eventually impact our health, well-being, and relationships. Reducing stress in our lives is often a popular resolution that ties in with leading a healthier lifestyle, but is also one your pets can help with. There are many studies that show that playing with and petting a dog or cat can reduce stress levels, and release endorphins that lower heart rates and blood pressure. If you have a pet, you’re already ahead of the game—just carve out some time every day to intentionally sit quietly and snuggle with your furry friend, like while watching TV in the evening. Or, make a point of coming home and playing with your pet for 15 or 20 minutes—it will help to remove yourself from the stressful headspace of the working day and allow you to better relax and unwind.
Resolution: Stick to a Routine
Studies show that many of us thrive on an established routine. Animals are often creatures of habit as well—who else’s dog knows it’s time for dinner at 6 on the dot? Committing to keeping your pet on a regular schedule for mealtimes, exercise and play will help them be happier by being able to predict when things will happen, and can also help you to stick to a routine by structuring other aspects of your day around your pet’s schedule. For example, if you come home from work and take your dog out for a walk right away, then feed them dinner before making dinner for yourself and your family, you’ll begin to establish a routine that encourages both exercise and healthy eating habits for all of you. You’ll also be less likely (and able!) to come home and flop down in front of the TV, wasting time until you’re too tired to make a healthy dinner for yourself, if your dog is waiting for his walk and then dinner upon your arrival home.
Resolution: Be More Present
A popular resolution around the internet these days is to be ‘more present’ in everyday life—to be more engaged with the family and friends around you, to put down the screens more, and enjoy life in the moment rather than rushing on to the next thing or always looking to see what else is going on. This seems to be a product of the digital age we are living in, and one where many people are beginning to feel disconnected from those around them because of how much time we spend on our various devices. The good news is that our pets are completely incapable of getting sucked into too much screen time, and only want to engage with their people. They also live entirely in the moment with generally no concept of the future or past, so our pets can be a great tool and reminder to put down the devices and engage. When a wet nose is pushed into your hand, or a paw is placed on your arm or leg for attention, take the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to what your pet is asking you for—whether it’s attention, a walk, an ear scratch—and live in the moment.