It’s that time again! Time for our annual New Year’s Resolutions. Many of us make promises at the beginning of each new year to change and/or improve our lives to be healthier and happier. We start off with the best intentions and stay committed to those resolutions for days, weeks, maybe even months. But in the end, many of us fall short.
Just think about today – right now. Are you still committed to last year’s resolutions? Do you even remember last year’s resolutions? Are they the same ones each and every year? Why do we give up on our ourselves so readily? Is there anything we can do to make our resolutions stay with us so that we change our lives to be healthier and happier?
Doggy Key to Your Success
Believe it or not, your doggy can be the key to a happier, healthier you! Dogs provide love – lots of love! Unconditional love. Dogs also give us the sense of motivation and purpose. Even when we feel down and out, lacking any desire to get up and go, our beloved pups can be our motivators. Just look into their big puppy dog eyes. Dogs provide loyal companionship. Even when you feel all alone, you are never alone with your dog by your side. And never being alone provides safety and security. Although everyone can benefit from a dog’s protection, this is particularly relevant to women and children.
Daily Dog Walks
So how can dogs help you to stick with your New Year’s Resolution of a happier, healthier you? Dog walks are the answer. Say what? Yes, dog walks are a great way to get to a new healthier, happier you. And, it will also result in a happier, healthier pup. When we refer to dog walks, we do not mean taking your dog outside to “go potty” or sniffing walks. While these potty walks and sniffing walks are important for the health and well-being of your dog, they are not the dog walks that will create a happier, healthier you.
We are talking about non-stop, athletic walks. It can be as simple as a jaunt around the block or as challenging as a several mile trail-run. Or somewhere in between. The key is making regular dog walks athletic and aerobic. When you finish your dog walk, you should feel refreshed and invigorated.
How Dog Walks Change Our Minds
The ability to change is all in our minds. Have you heard this before? It is true. And, when you start exercising, you are changing your brains with powerful natural chemicals that our bodies produce. You may have heard of feel-good endorphins, but don’t really know what they are. In addition, endorphins are not the only game in town. There are other components that last longer than endorphins. These chemical components are hormones. Several hormones greatly affect our success to become a happier, healthier you. These hormones include adrenaline, cortisol and oxytocin. Together, our changes in our endorphins and hormones are the biological evidence that dog walks can change our brains to become a healthier, happier you.
Have you heard of the “runner’s high”? This refers to the release of natural endorphins during athletic activities that make us feel good. Endorphins have an opiate-like effect on our bodies. Endorphins are natural pain killers. While synthetic opiates are dangerous, natural opiates are safe, effective and free. Our bodies naturally make endorphins when we exercise. However, because they are neurotransmitters, they are not long lasting. They affect our bodies temporally, but dissipate very quickly, which is quite different than the dangerous, synthetic opiates. However, we keep feeling good long after we finish our exercises and the endorphins have dissipated. This continued feel-good state is the result of our hormones.
Are you familiar with hormones? There are over 50 other hormones coursing through the human body. When it comes to dog walks, the hormones that come into play include Adrenaline (a.k.a. Epinephrine), Cortisol and Oxytocin. Adrenaline is the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight response”. If your heart is racing, you can thank adrenaline. If you constantly feel edgy and stressed, you can thank cortisol, which is responsible for inflammation throughout your body. Both these hormones need to be managed so they do not rule and ruin your life.
The hormone you want coursing through your body is oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. Just like adrenaline and cortisol, oxytocin is a stress hormone. However, unlike adrenaline and cortisol, oxytocin in large doses is great for your body. It makes you happy and healthy. It provides a sense serenity and calm. Oxytocin flows through our bodies not only when we pet our dogs, but when we look at them and smile. And guess what? Oxytocin flows through our doggy’s bodies too, making them happier and healthier.
Dog Walks Perfected
Have you tried including dog walks for exercise but fail miserably because of poor leash skills? Does your dog pull on leash? Is your dog leash aggressive? Do you feel your stress hormones surge during dog walks? Do you need help teaching your dog to walk and/or run with you for fun exercise? We can definitely help. We do it all the time and would love to help you and your doggies live a happier, healthier lives each and every day! Contact us today so we can help you realize your dreams for the new year.
Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD is an evolutionary biologist, college biology instructor, former zookeeper, author and certified professional dog trainer with Lucky Dog Training Asheville. Please follow us on Instagram @TrainingLuckyDogs and @KyloRenPup. Please contact us for more information at TrainingLuckyDogs@gmail.com or call us at 828-423-9635.