The Chinese zodiac calendar names each of the years in its 12-year cycle after an animal and on 16 February we enter the Year of the Dog, which is said to bring luck and even the coming of ‘fortune’.
You don’t have to own a dog to reap some of the benefits of canine behaviour, though. We spoke to mindfulness expert Alexa Frey, co-founder and director of The Mindfulness Project, to ask her what you can learn from dogs – and how to use these lessons to enhance your everyday life.
Learn to be ‘in the moment’
Watch a dog and see how they are all about living in the now; they are not thinking ‘I need to walk 5k today’ or ‘after this run, my coat will be shinier and I’ll lose weight from all this exercise’.
This is probably why they are so content with life. Learning to be more mindful teaches you to embrace the moment and not to keep striving for more or better. It helps you open up to what’s already here, something that comes naturally to man’s best friend.
Be more dog! ‘If you’re out walking, don’t think about a conversation you need to have or a to-do list, just notice what’s around you,’ says Alexa. ‘Check out your surroundings, listen to the sounds and you’ll feel more in touch with your environment and, ultimately, yourself.’
Be kind to yourself
A dog knows what they want and asks for it – they pay attention to their own needs and aren’t concerned with those of others.
And this is something you should do too. If you put everyone else first – whether that’s a boss, partner or child – and ignore what you need to make yourself happy, the effect can be very damaging.
Be more dog! ‘If a dog is hungry, tired or in need of a cuddle, it asks for what it needs,’ says Alexa. ‘Take care of yourself by putting you first whenever you can.’
Trust your gut
When something doesn’t feel right, we tend to reason it away, whereas a dog will just sense they’re not keen on a person or feel uncomfortable in a situation, then act on it with a bark or growl.
Alternatively, if they like you, they’ll show it with a friendly tail-wag.
Be more dog! ‘Respond to feelings of unease and learn to pay attention to your senses,’ says Alexa. ‘Let those feelings – good and bad – back in and let them guide you.’
If a dog gets wet in the rain or is cold or hungry, once that immediate problem is solved and they’re happily fed and dried off, we hear no more about it.
Humans, on the other hand, tend to talk a lot about how bad something was: ‘I was drenched, I was starving and we weren’t given anything to eat.’ Sound familiar?
Be more dog! ‘Don’t dwell on problems or issues, don’t curse away and don’t dramatise things that have gone wrong,’ says Alexa. ‘Try to accept and move on.’
Celebs born in the Year of the Dog
Those born in a Dog year are typically through to be loyal and honourable, with the ability to pursue goals when all the odds are stacked against them. Take inspiration from these famous faces...
Dame Judi Dench (1934)
This vintage Dog year saw the birth of one tough, talented actor with incredible staying power.
Currently, on another comeback tour, this singing sensation just keeps on giving - and her tenacity is certainly dog-like.
A long career with constant reinvention - she has great 'dog' instincts and always seems to follow them.
Mariah Carey (1970)
Resilience and a sense of fun - tick!
Eddie Redmayne (1982)
Described by his co-stars as 'the sweetest, most gentle human being ever', there's a puppylike enthusiasm about Eddie.
Harry Styles (1994)
Said to be 'faithful and loyal'. A good dog if ever we saw one.
By Ally Oliver