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Life Lessons from My Dog

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


 

This past weekend was the worst one of my life. My partner in crime and best friend of 11 years died suddenly of a ruptured tumor near his kidney. My husband and I do not have children so in many ways Harper was our child. To those of you who have actual children, you may scoff at this idea but until you have actually walked in my shoes, please do not judge. The house seems so empty and everything reminds me of him in some way. The grief is very real and more than I ever anticipated. For those of you with dogs, you understand that the life span of your pets is but a heartbeat so we enter into the relationship knowing they will not outlive us. However, the bonds that are forged span a lifetime. We were very fortunate in that Harper’s sudden passing meant that he did not suffer. My last image of him is sitting in the surgical suite with one paw on my shoulder and him looking at me as if to say “Mom, I’m going to be fine. It’s just a little surgery.” He was also so reassuring in that way. Over the past few days, in between my ugly crying spells and reflection I’ve put together some lessons that Harper taught me over the years. Funny that we often think we are training and teaching our pets yet the lessons they teach us are far, far greater.


Love Unconditionally

Harper loved almost everyone and he instinctively knew when you needed his love the most. Just a few months after I adopted him, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I’ll never forget him coming to her bedside to lay his head on her hand to offer her some comfort. Many times over the years he would curl up next to me in bed and lay his head on my heart and comfort me as I cried or worried over some challenge. If he didn’t like someone, he would also become fiercely protective and I trusted his instincts about people and on several occasions he proved that he knew best when someone with questionable motives came around. However, he wasn’t biased over someone’s race, religion, sexual preference or lifestyle choice. People should really pay more attention to a dog’s behavior. The world would be a much happier and peaceful place.


Protect Your Loved Ones

We used to joke that Harper stayed on ‘high alert’ most of the time. It’s true he had a hard time relaxing but mostly he assumed the role of protector of the house, especially when my husband began traveling for work and we were at home alone. I realized this early on when I was living by myself and Harper woke me up barking like crazy. Of course, I kept telling him to be quiet. Finally he did calm down but he slept by the back door the rest of the night. When I walked outside the next morning to go to work, my car had been broken into and Harper was the only one who realized it! I never doubted him from that moment on.


Forgive and Forget

Harper used to sneakily get into the trash or better yet, he would somehow manage to sneak bacon off of a paper towel without so much as even touching the napkin. It was a skill, for sure, but he would be reprimanded. It didn’t take much; all I had to do was use a stern voice and his ears would go back and he would look down guiltily. However, a minute later he was back to wagging his tail and coming to cuddle with me on the couch. He got over our spats very quickly and resumed being the ‘happy-go-lucky’ dog I loved. And he forgave me many times when I would forget to pick up his dog food and he would have to eat rice for dinner. Maybe that was easier to forgive but the point is that he didn’t hold grudges and never dwelled on the past.


Live In the Moment

Harper lived each day (and each moment) to the fullest. You’d never catch him worrying about yesterday. Perhaps his biggest worry was catching that squirrel which we’ll discuss in just a moment. He was present in every moment and even in his final few days he was chasing squirrels, getting into the trash and snuggling with me on every occasion. He lived a life with no regrets and in so many ways he was my role model.


Never Give Up the Chase

Every single day Harper would wake up excited to face the day and run to the backdoor and literally jump off our back deck to chase the same squirrels. And every time he failed! The beauty is that he faced each day with the same excitement and the chase never got old. He motivated me so many mornings to go chase my day with the same level of enthusiasm.

 

My beloved fur baby has left me with so many wonderful memories. And his wisdom about living a full life each and every day will stay with me always. Go chase those squirrels, Harper! I’ll see you again one day.

Practicing Gratitude

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


 

One of the many routine stress busters I use is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Although sometimes I let the distractions and busyness of life take me away from the act of writing down my thoughts, it has been a useful tool for stress reduction. Science has proven that you cannot feel both stressed and grateful at the same exact time and I’ve found that no matter where I am, if I simply pause and redirect my negative thoughts into positive thoughts about what I am thankful for in life, there is an instant calm that I feel not only in my mind but in my body.

 

How to Keep a Gratitude Journal?

I recommend buying a special notebook and keep it by your bed. Every morning (or evening) write down a few things that you are grateful for that day. I’m a morning person so I like to wake up, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and use that quiet time to reflect. By writing down what you are grateful for in the morning, you can set the tone for your entire day. There are times, like I mentioned, that I may not actually write in my journal but I will mentally make a gratitude list at some point in my day. As I said, it is an instant stress buster. Also once you start the journal, it is fun to glance back and see all of the many things you have to be grateful for and it’s often a glimpse into your present moment. And these do not have to be deep thoughts either. For instance, today I wrote that I am thankful for my coffee and coconut milk creamer. Now I do go on to write about celebrating life and how I enjoy celebrating my life with the simple act of enjoying my coffee and creamer each morning. It really is about enjoying the simple things in life.

 

30-Day Gratitude Challenge

Now that you know the how and why to keep a gratitude journal I want to challenge you to do a journal for 30 days. With the upcoming US Thanksgiving holiday, November is a perfect month to practice gratitude. Feel free to share your thoughts on the Live the GoodLife Facebook page. Or snap a pic and share on Instragram @nansgoodlife.

Slow Down & Live the GoodLife

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

 

I never realized the importance of stopping to smell the roses. Personally I never cared for flowers so the phrase was always a little lost on me. I was so busy that I thought I might miss something if I slowed down. The phrase ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ was much more fitting for me. When I left the corporate world, I went from 100mph to 0 and I got some serious whiplash! It took me a few months to recover and then I began to explore the myth behind this ‘slow down’ movement.

 

Here’s what I found:

Digital detox is good for the soul.

With so much information being sent to us in emails, social media, text, phones, meetings, etc we often feel like we are treading water with our heads barely afloat. Taking just 10 minutes to unplug from any internet/phone source can do wonders for your overall productivity. Use that time to sit quietly and focus on taking long, slow breaths. Or for those of you who just need to switch gears and declutter, clear out some old piles of paperwork, catch up on a few self-improvement or professional development articles. If it’s in the evening, definitely enjoy some quality time with your family. Even better schedule a digital free night for the entire family and enjoy a relaxed meal and maybe a few card games. (UNO anyone?!!) The first time I turned off my phone I felt so guilty and couldn’t resist picking it up every few minutes until I finally put it face down on my bedside table and went on about my night. And guess what? When I turned on the phone the next morning, there was no major crisis and all of those emails and to-dos were still waiting on me. However, the biggest change was my renewed sense of energy and a few new ideas to boot. Sometimes the best way to solve some of the big work problems is by unplugging and turning your attention to something completely unrelated. Trust me, you will feel a renewed sense of purpose and will likely have a multitude of solutions ready to implement.

 

Enjoy a meal with family and friends.

I love to cook so for me there is no greater way to express love than my preparing a meal for my family or friends. I take great joy in the entire experience from researching the meal, to food shopping, cooking and then serving the meal. The best part if watching everyone else enjoy it as well. Even if you’re not a cook, it’s important to dedicate time to spend with your family and friends and what better way to do that than over a meal. There are so many ‘take and bake’ options at stores today or you can splurge and dine out if it’s in your budget. The main thing is to take the time and just do it. Some of the best memories come from sharing a meal with those you love.

 

Just Breathe.

Breathing is a vital part of our existence. Without it, well, we’d be dead! One of my favorite songs is ‘Breathe Me’ by Sia and every time I listen to it, I’m reminded of the importance of breathing…inhaling life & energy and letting go of the negativity. Regardless of your busyness every has to breathe so the next time you find yourself getting stressed out, take a minute and just breathe. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your mind and body will shift to a calmer place. There is even medical research to substantiate deep breathing benefits for lowering blood pressure and heart rates which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system which acts like a brake in a car to slow your body’s responses back to a normal resting state.

 

These tips may sound crazy especially if you're moving at 100mph but trust me, once you try them you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner. Even if you’re not a fan of roses you can still enjoy the effects of the slow down. And if you’re like me you’ll find a new appreciation for those flowers and so much more in life!!

Slow Down & Just Breathe

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why does it take a tragedy to make us truly slow down and enjoy life? My stepmom passed away unexpectedly last week and time stopped for a few days while family gathered around to comfort each other and reflect on our childhood and all of the memories we had of my stepmom. One of the men officiating her funeral made the comment that we all need to slow down, not when tragedy strikes, but in everyday life. Our society has begun to glorify ‘busyness’ for some strange reason as if there is some mysterious prize for being the busiest person. I can guarantee in your final moments of life that you are not wishing that you had been busier. In fact, I’ve heard many people speak of those final moments with loved ones and they all say they wished they would have slowed down and enjoyed life more. More than anything my stepmom’s passing has made me realize how precious life truly is and I want to make every moment count and ensure that all of my interactions with people are sincere and positive. My stepmom was full of life and believed earnestly that life was meant to be celebrated. So today and every day I will honor her legacy by slowing down and enjoying life to the fullest. Rest in peace, BigKim. Know you are loved and missed.

Breathe Your Way to a Healthier Heart

Friday, February 06, 2015

Have you ever been in an uncomfortable situation and could feel your body tensing up, possibly experiencing shortness of breath and a tightening in your chest? That type of stress also negatively affects your heart health and causes a constriction of the blood vessels which makes it harder for blood to flow through the body. Although we may find ourselves in those type of situations from time to time, that doesn’t mean we cannot control the way our bodies respond. Slowing down your breath can produce immediate relaxing responses and greatly improve your mental clarity even during times of stress.

 

Remember when you were little and your mom would sometimes count to 10 before responding to some ridiculous prank you pulled?! Believe it or not, there is scientific data behind this type of counting method so once again Mom was right!! So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, simply slow your breathing down and count to 10. I like to count on my inhale and really feel my breath expand into my chest and belly. Sometimes I’ve even forgotten what number I was counting but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is that my body relaxed and my mind was clear. It has made all the difference in the world in how I’ve responded to people and greatly improved my ability to clearly articulate myself through a difficult conversation. 

Love Yourself!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Who's in the mood for love this month? I’ve created 28 Daily Tips for the month of February to celebrate the most important person in your life…YOU! Incorporating self-care into your daily routine is critical for keeping yourself mentally and physically at your best. Women, in particular, are the worst at putting themselves first since we are natural caretakers and tend to take care of everyone else first ignoring our own needs. And then you hit that brick wall and are so exhausted that you are forced to slow down. That’s why it is critical to take time for yourself even if you have to schedule it. Think ME first, Busy second!! That should be your daily mantra to help program your brain into putting yourself first.

 


 

Here’s my February Love-Me List:

#1: Hit snooze on a work day - Sometimes starting your day off with a few extra minutes of sleep is a treat!

#2: Sit down for breakfast - With the ‘busyness’ of life, it’s ok to occasionally sit down and enjoy a meal in peace

#3: Go for a walk – I’m a big fan of gratitude walks because it’s so refreshing to think about all of the good things in your life

#4: Read that guilty pleasure book you bought six months ago

#5: Take a bubble bath

#6: Get a massage

#7: Watch your favorite movie

#8: Cook your favorite meal (Or have someone cook it for you or go out if your budget allows)

#9: Indulge in your favorite dessert

#10: Plan a girls night out – Friends are the family we choose for ourselves

#11: Put your hand over your heart, close your eyes and breathe in/out slowly for one minute

#12: Look in the mirror and tell yourself how awesome you are….smile and mean it!!

#13: Get a facial (You can easily mix up your own using 2 egg whites & 2 tbsp plain yogurt, mix & apply; after it dries you can wash off with warm water)

#14: Ask your partner to rub your feet (or your back)

#15: Find a way to laugh…let yourself just be in the moment, no judgment….just laughter

#16: Write yourself a letter telling yourself all of the things you love about you

#17: Block out a date night for yourself (Or at least block out a few hours to spend quietly with yourself just enjoying your own company)

#18: Watch a sunrise or sunset

#19: Plant a flower or start an herb garden

#20: Make a bucket list

#21: Do 1 thing on your bucket list

#22: Paint a picture (or create some piece of art)

#23: Snuggle with your favorite pet

#24: Get a pedicure or manicure

#25: Go to bed 30 minutes early

#26: Request breakfast in bed (or make it yourself and bring it back to bed)

#27: Create a daily mantra to inspire you (You are strong, confident and sexy!)

#28: Do something unexpectedly nice for a stranger 

16 Second Mind Cleanse

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

With all of the chaos in our lives sometimes we just need to take a moment and breathe. Sounds so simple and we do it approximately 23,040 times per day. WOW! How many of us actually notice when we breathe? Not many I bet. Most of our breathing is very shallow and quick from our chest up. Deep breathing comes from the stomach and diaphragm and you can feel your entire upper body expand and constrict with your breathing.

Try this 16 second breathing exercise whenever you need to have a reality check with yourself.

Close your eyes….breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 4…..and hold your breath in for a count of 4….now slowly exhale your breath for a count of 4 and hold the exhale for a count of 4….how do you feel? Do you feel like you just hit the reset button on yourself? This breathing exercise works wonders anytime you are preparing for big meetings or presentations, difficult conversations, tense family gatherings or just when you need to give yourself a time out.

 

Congratulations! You have just completed your first meditation exercise. Feel free to do these throughout your day and notice how your body relaxes and your mind quiets. Serenity now! :-)


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