“Dogs have a way of finding people who need them…and filling an emptiness we didn't even know we had.” ~ Unknown Dogs love and accept us unconditionally. We are the center of their universe. All we have to do is show up and they’re ecstatic. Our family and friends, they may be happy to see us, but never that happy. Being adored so completely probably fills us up more than we realize. Dogs give so much and expect so little. And they buffer us from loneliness. Research has found that when humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes they both get a boost of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, also known as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone. No wonder why we’re so bonded to each other! Dogs can bring out our playful side. Have us rolling in the grass, laughing our heads off. Acting silly and forgetting to make dinner. They can immerse in the present moment easier and quicker than any meditation class can. By just being their own silly selves we can be silly, too, and feel the tension of the world fall away. Our beautiful boy Leo who brought the "Leoshine" into our lives. He's been gone for seven years but we still miss him so much♡ Like so many of you, the love I have for my dog is immense and I can’t imagine life without her. What is it about our precious companions that make them so special to us? Extensive research only confirms what we already know firsthand. Dogs calm us down and being around them and petting them relaxes us. Their companionship brings us comfort and a sense of security. Walking them and taking them to the dog park makes us move more (which is good for our bodies), get outdoors more (which is good for our soul) and interact more with other people (which is good for our spirit). Perhaps it's the simplicity of it that binds us to them so strongly. Unlike many of our personal and professional relationships, we know exactly what it takes to make our canine companions happy, and it isn’t much - love, attention, food and exercise. Dogs are easy to please. I’ve always loved hearing stories from clients whose well-being is enhanced significantly by their pets. Sometimes I joke that the world needs more dogs and fewer human therapists but there’s definitely a part of me that believes this, too. Approximately 37% of Canadian households have at least one dog and about 30% have at least one cat. Homes all over the globe have furry friends, of course, but millions of companion animals still enter shelters each year and millions more are out on the street as strays. To the shelter care workers and advocates who dedicate so much time and love to animals, we are deeply grateful for the tremendous work you do! Holly lounging on the porch. Aside from being awesome companions, how about all the hard working dogs out there dedicated to helping humans in need? We’ve always relied on dogs to be our protectors but we call on them to do so much more, too. Their loyalty and work ethic is remarkable. There are guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs specifically trained to assist people with autism, seizures, severe allergies, diabetes and mobility issues. Many dogs specialize in mental health support and help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, calm people with anxiety disorders, and remind others to take medication on time. There are police dogs, search and rescue dogs and military dogs, too. And finally, we have therapy dogs that provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, schools, and disaster zones. What on earth would we do without dogs? A transformation takes place in people when a dog enters the room. Just watch the smile it brings as the joy bubbles over. There's a reason they're called man's best friend and we're so lucky to have them in our lives. Are you a dog lover, too? This month’s theme at Hope Café is dedicated to our furry friends and we welcome you to share your comments, stories and photos with us by: 1. Commenting below. 2. Following and commenting on our brand new Instagram page. www.instagram.com/_hopecafe 3. Liking and commenting on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/HopeCafeFix/ 4. Submitting a photo. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 5. Submitting a story. Email me at email@example.com Share this link with other dog lovers, too, by choosing your platform below! Yours, as always, in hope, Donna September, 2016 For more posts from the Inspiration Station click here. Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is www.donnasales.ca. She is the founder of Hope Café.
By Joan Friedlander "I'm really busy right now, but it's better than the alternative." I hear these words spoken quite often by those who feel fortunate to have a steady paycheck - or enough clients - to pay the rent and enjoy a few nice things in their lives. It amazes me how easily and frequently such statements are made, like a cultural mantra no one questions. Although I know that I am happier with a more relaxed schedule than most people tolerate, it’s not always easy to ignore these words when they are uttered with frequency by friends, colleagues and folks in the media. Maybe they’re right and I am wrong. Should I be busier now in case it all falls apart next year? Am I naïve to think that I can live on less now and not pay for it later? In divine order, I was given a chance to experience increased busyness last summer. I didn't like it. After dinner, instead of going outside to enjoy the summer evenings, I would often close the draperies and collapse in front of the TV for a few hours, only to become plagued by worry-thoughts around bed time. When I did go to sleep I might wake up later, thinking about what I’d not gotten a chance to do, or what needed to get done the next day. As a writer and an Introvert, being overly scheduled with client meetings robbed me of two critical needs: 1) creative writing time; and 2) longer periods of unscheduled, uncommitted time in my work day. I'm pretty sure my busyness was a "good busy," as I gather "good busy" means that I was making plenty of money. Why wasn’t it fun for me, then? Is it because I was busy doing things I didn't thoroughly enjoy, working on projects that no longer suited my purpose and my goals? Or, am I the kind of person who doesn't thrive on busyness, no matter how “good” it may be? I would say it is a little bit of both. I vouched not to accept more clients than my ideal schedule would allow, nor accept work that I was not delighted to do. Busyness is Not a Long-Term Health Plan Adrenaline production is a symptom of busyness. It creates a false sense of energy where there is none. Adrenalin, along with cortisol, is pumped into your body when you get caught up in the pressure of back-to-back deadlines. Adrenaline is addictive. Without a steady flow of adrenalin, some people actually become bored. When the pressures associated with an overly full schedule disappear, the sudden reduction in adrenalin leaves people feeling lethargic. Mistaking this for depression or lack of motivation, adrenalin addicts create “emergencies” to feel better again. Responsible for the fight or flight response, adrenalin gives you much needed boosts of energy and strength in true emergencies. Unfortunately, we create mythological emergencies every time our thoughts project danger where there is none. "I'm really busy right now, but it's better than the alternative" is one of those thoughts. If you never stop to ask yourself, “Am I OK today?” you are likely to project danger into an unknown future, often unnecessarily. "Bursts of adrenaline give us a buzz or feeling of excitement. But when you don't get a chance to unwind from stress, when the battering of adrenaline and other stress hormones continues without a break, the body goes into overdrive. The result is a drain on your body's vital systems." The Hidden Link between Adrenaline and Stress by Archibald D. Hart, PhD. (1995, USA) Making Changes In today's busy, high-pressured world, self-care habits are the first to go. If you talk to anyone who has said that an otherwise inconvenient illness or ridiculous accident turned out to be the best thing that happened to them, you have met someone who will also admit he or she ignored earlier warning signals. I once met a man who told me about an accident he had over Labor Day weekend. He slipped and fell at a pool party, which laid him up for a several weeks due to a resulting back injury. I asked what he learned from this experience. He said one word, "patience." He is now more patient on the freeways, with his children and family, and with life in general. Often, when I start coaching a busy entrepreneur who is attempting to bring more order to their life - the very person who is supposed to have the most freedom to choose how they spend their time - exercise and self-care routines are the most frequently named missing practices. Next on the list of neglect is a spending a sufficient amount of time with friends and family. Their first assignment? Take at least one completely business-free 24-hour period off each and every week. That means no email, no catch-up project and no phone calls, nothing associated with their business. If you recognize some of the symptoms, thoughts or behaviors mentioned in this article, here are a few things you can do now to reduce stress associated with busyness. 1. Identify one thing you can do, just one thing that will eliminate one ounce of busyness from your life. Eliminate it now. Just stop doing it. 2. Identify the most prominent fear-based thought, the one that is creating the greatest amount of pressure and stress in your life. a. First, give into it completely. What is the very worst thing that could happen? What could you do if it did? b. Now, argue for the other side and see if you can’t find some evidence that it may, in fact, be an exaggerated thought or entirely untrue in the moment. 3. Educate yourself. Do some research to gain a clearer understanding of the role excess adrenalin plays in reduced health and well-being. Start with these three keywords in your favorite search engine: adrenaline health problems. Be well! References: Stress Can Rot Your Brain by Dr. Trisha [...]
By Kimberly Pugh, B.Sc., D.C. As you are sitting in front of your computer right now, take a moment to check your posture. I imagine you are slouching slightly in your seat, your shoulders are rolled forward, and your head and neck are protruding. While you are sitting in this position, try this simple exercise: take a deep, long, ‘belly’ breath. Did you notice how much effort it took? Did it feel unnatural? Now, sit back in your chair, lower your shoulders from your ears, tuck in your chin, and repeat the breath. Notice how much more depth you were able to achieve, and how much more fulfilling the breath was! Most people agree that maintaining good posture is important, but they may not know the implications for their health. The simple exercise above demonstrates how poor posture can affect your breathing. People that sit at a desk for an extended period of time are particularly vulnerable. These people will gradually slouch, assuming the posture above, and eventually their breathing becomes shallow and quick. Shallow breathing utilizes accessory muscles in your neck and shoulders, which can lead to fatigue, neck pain, and tension-type headaches. Rolling the shoulders forward puts increased tension between the shoulder blades, which accentuates the natural curve in the upper spine. This leads to chest tightness, weakness of the shoulder girdle, and it often irritates the rib cage, again, leading to short and shallow breathing. It is essential that we retrain our posture and relearn how to breathe. I never understood the importance of ‘core-breathing’ until I began practising yoga. Many of the classes I attended focussed on breathing from the lower belly, sometimes even placing the hand near the diaphragm to emphasize where the breath should originate. Some difficult postures require slow and steady breaths. During Shavasana, or meditation, the body seems to demand long, deep, fulfilling breaths to clear the mind and relax the muscles. I don’t know about you, but I walk away from class feeling like a million dollars! Be aware of your breath and posture. Check yourself in the mirror. From the side, your ear should align with your shoulder, which should align with your hip, which should align with your knee, which should align with your ankle. Begin trying these simple habits, and incorporate them into your routine: Set an alarm for every 20 minutes while you are sitting at a desk to remind yourself to get up, stretch, and hydrate. Place your hand on your abdomen and practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Occasionally switch up your desk chair for a physio ball. While walking, imagine you are holding a 10lb weight in each hand to remind yourself to drop your shoulders down. Perform simple chin-tucks while you are sitting at a red light. Take in a yoga class, and concentrate more on your breath than on how awkward you look! Breathing is fundamental to life. Oxygen nourishes our tissues. We take our breath for granted. Become more aware of your posture, and just breathe… Dr. Kimberly Pugh B.Sc., D.C. Optimum Wellness Centres May, 2012 Dr. Kimberly Pugh employs a holistic approach to wellness, assessing diet, sleep, stress, and other lifestyle factors that contribute to health. She practices in SE Calgary. For more information, check out www.optimumwellnesscentres.com