How Walking My Dog is Helping Me Change More than My Body
“We need to hurry!” I think to myself in a half-way agitated manner as Ladybug stops to smell every blade of grass within what seems like a 10-mile radius. “I have to get back and get ready for class” goes through my mind as I focus on how annoyed I am with Ladybug as she so lovingly enjoys our walk.
This used to be how our walks were. I’d walk her out of obligation, always in a hurry, and never a chance to observe the world around us. That is changing.
I wish I could say ‘This has changed’, but I am a process (as are you) and I’m working on being present for every step, breath, and moment on my walk with Ladybug.
We’re both seeing the benefits in our lives from these almost-daily strolls. She smiles again; I smile and am getting faster on my feet. Also, I can feel my hips moving with life again after hours and days of living a sedentary lifestyle. Finally, my lungs are filled with fresh air, vitality and life instead of the stale death of air from isolation spent inside one’s own residence due to a surge in depression, anxiety, or fear.
Ladybug is loving this! She smiles her happy dog smile, runs back and forth, and loves when the neighborhood kids stop and talk to her as they kindly say, like only kids can, “Oh Ladybug, you’re so pretty!” She eats it up. Like a proud parent, I smile as she’s celebrated by my neighbors and their children.
Having a dog has taught me several things about my life, my tendency to control, and my Bipolar Symptoms.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned about life (and myself) because of having a dog:
- It’s good to have a schedule. I feel better, she feels better; we all feel better when we are on a schedule. I wake up at 6, start official work by 8 or 9, take a break from 3-5, and then from 5-9, or so, I work some more, whether blogging, reaching out to people who need checked in on, or work on projects that pay the bills.
- It’s good to walk as often as possible. The effort doesn’t matter–just move! This one is tough for me because every single time I walk, I want it to be perfect and better than before but the reality is, I love it just for getting outside of my head, feeling the movement of my feet on the ground, and seeing how happy it makes Ladybug by running around and sniffing.
- It’s good to reward yourself. Every time Ladybug comes in the door from our walks, she’s greeted with a treat and a belly rub. Yet, I rarely reward myself with something for the venture because the walk, itself, is my reward. The difference is if it feels forced (I need to) versus something that comes from within (I want to). It’s simply a matter of perspective.
- Some days, I walk a little longer, and on the really bad days, I walk in my yard, back and forth just to be reminded that every step counts and Ladybug loves our time in the yard because we play.
- It’s teaching me to slow down. Ladybug often wants to sniff and check out different things. I’m learning to slow down the walk and enjoy it. Not to treat it as something else that needs to be done, but as something I get to do and enjoy. I do it for the spiritual benefits and the physical benefits are just a bonus.
- I feel like I’m building a relationship with my dog when we walk. It’s like we’re bonding and it breaks the loneliness that often aches in my heart when fatigue comes for a visit.
- I’m realizing that walking is the only time my mind is completely still (this has been reached with recreational drugs and alcohol before but never purely by focusing on breath, my surroundings, and and the beauty of nature that is in front of me.
- Lastly, I’ve learned that walking is something I can do for the rest of my life. It’s my thing that only God (or arthritis) can take away from me. I spent 3 months stuck inside while I was incarcerated and just feeling my feet against the earth reminds me that my freedom is always a choice and only a step away.
I encourage each of you to take some time to walk. I’ve walked in the rain, scorching heat, full sun, no sun, under a starry sky illuminated by a full moon and early in the morning while the fog was thick and temperature cool. I think night time is my favorite time to go because it’s so quiet, but early morning is nice, too.
Walking has helped me a lot with my Bipolar symptoms, especially the agitation and anxiety that seem to pervade my soul.
Get out, take a step, and get walking; you may be surprised by the benefits you start to notice in your life, too.
Be well my friends,
, . (2016). How Walking My Dog is Helping Me Change More than My Body. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/desk-couch/2016/10/how-walking-my-dog-is-helping-me-change-more-than-my-body/