I say things we can learn from our dogs because the things we could learn from our cats can also make us happier and healthier humans but would be different things than dogs would have us know. A separate article! Having taken a step back to observe my dogs and other dogs too, the following is what I believe they would convey were they equipped with verbal communication capabilities that we could understand. Dogs would tell you:
1. Live in the moment. I don't have all the elaborate memories of the past or thoughts about the future and it seems like I have it better. Because of this each day is new and singular with great possibilities untainted by the lens of past experiences that humans use to evaluate new events. I am not weighted with past disappointments. I don't predict the future, good or bad. I simply take each day as it comes. This moment is all either of us has for sure. Relax, play and definitely chase your tail if you want.
2. Forgive. Even if you were gone all day, are too busy to take me for a long walk or yell at me when you're mad, my feelings may be hurt but I forgive you immediately. I'm still happy to see you. I meet you where you are without judgment, thoughts of how I would change you or residue from yesterday and the day before. I don't analyze why you did the thing you did. I don't need to understand it. I simply forgive you. The past is gone and time is precious. Every day matters.
3. Reward yourself with treats once in a while. It's OK. Treats are good! Treats are part of being in the moment, showing love and appreciation to yourself and those around you. When you give me a treat, I am reminded that you love me and I love you right back. Treats can be small and include the time we spend together away from the complicated busy-ness of the world.
4. Take good care of yourself. Take naps, clean your fur, get exercise, go to the groomers, get regular checkups, take walks in nature and enjoy life without guilt. Make time each day for basic care so you are vital and ready for challenges like scaring the mailman away (again!) and opportunities like meeting friends at the dog beach or Frisbee in the park. Be the best you and I'll be the best me so we can have many happy days together.
5. Attitude is everything (and body language and tone of voice matter). I'm happy to see you when you get home. Period. It doesn't matter what happened in my day or yours. I wag my happiest tail wag and greet you at the door. You pet me and use your cheery voice. Sometimes you're not happy when you get here but then you see how happy I am to see you and you become happy too. You're welcome. We're here together now and that's what matters.
6. Walk in nature. You'll feel better and I'll feel better. I'll pee on things and reestablish my place in the neighborhood and you will notice the natural beauty and let the stress of the day go. You will think the ducks at the lake look lovely and peaceful and I will want to sniff and chase them but it's all good.
7. Hugs matter (and kisses even if you have dog breath). Touch matters. I want to sit next to you and lie next to you and look you in the eyes so you will know how much I love you because I can't put it into words and neither can most humans. So I will show you.
8. Know your real needs. We don't need a lot of stuff. I don't want a new bone. I want the one that is just a blackened piece of a former bone that has been stuck under the couch guarded by a gigantic dust bunny for the last two months. It's good enough. I don't need a fancy collar; I need just enough so that if I crawl under the fence someone knows how to return me to you. And I only need toys that we play with together.
9. Take time for the simple things (like laying on the furniture together). I'll watch whatever shows you want to watch and they don't even have to have animals in them. How many humans do you know that would do that? It doesn't matter that I don't like the Real Housewives of anywhere but I'm lying next to you and you're happy. That's enough. And then sometimes we watch Animal Planet or Cesar Milan (and I get to see dogs who don't know how to behave- and you are reminded that I'm a good dog).
10. Love is the only thing that really matters. If you are breathing, it's a good day. Neither of us is perfect and it doesn't matter. Real love sees no flaws. And when I get old and my eyesight isn't so good and my fur is more raggedy than the Velveteen Rabbit, you will love me anyway. To the end of my days. And I will do the same for you as long as I can and after.
Dogs have it figured out or at least by virtue of their less developed brains have an easier time feeling content and peaceful -- elements of happiness. Happiness is so much simpler than you might think. Real happiness is uncomplicated by life events, how much money you have or don't have, what you have accomplished or not accomplished and is beyond what you feel good or guilty about. And, according, to happiness psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness, you can change how happy you are by 40 percent just by learning to express gratitude for the good things in your life, savoring life's joys, learning to forgive and avoiding overthinking among other things. Happiness guru, Dr. Martin Seligman, states, "The Pleasant Life is realized if we learn to savour and appreciate such basic pleasures as companionship, the natural environment and our bodily needs." The experts and the dogs agree.