Unwind Your Mind Challenge Day 3
There are several ways stress can be transferrable from one being to another.
And it’s all backed by science!
Have you ever seen somebody cry and then cried yourself? Or when someone else yawns, you yawn too?
That is because something called Mirror Neurons are firing inside our brains. These neurons signal to your body that you should be behaving the same way they are. And that is one way we transfer stress to others.
Some say this is where empathy comes from.
Many dogs have very high empathy skills given they understand when we are in pain, upset or many other emotions. They are a pack-driven species! Social animals like humans and dogs are literally wired to relate to each other in physical expression.
It is all a giant reflex!
The not so Disneyland mouse study
There is a study on mice that showed that when one mouse was exposed to stressors, their partner mouse’s brain reacted the same as theirs.
They found that this is because of the receptors in the brain that signal stress also releases a chemical signal or -pheromone- which travels from the stressed mouse and alerts the partner mouse’s body. Talk about contagious!
I think we can agree, dogs are sensitive. They know when we’re sick, and they feel our anxiety and become uneasy because of it. They are little sensitive energy sponges.
We easily stress them out by our thoughts and subtle behaviors on top of all the worldly things that stress them out, like fireworks.
So if you think you’re fighting with your spouse in a happy tone as to not “fight in front of the kids”… you’re not fooling anyone.
It is super important to watch your thoughts. For your health and your pup’s.
One of the things I’ve learned on my mindfulness journey is that I receive, precisely, what I am looking for.
But I cannot know what I need, if I am NEVER looking. If I am always walking with my head down, ruminating in my own thoughts, completely oblivious to my surroundings, in a rush to get to my next place.
When I intentionally set my mind on what is already around me, I start to notice not only more of what’s around me, but I notice more of what’s inside of me that’s trying to come out and more of what my dogs are trying to communicate to me.
One way you can help heal the mind, is to feel more embodied, so we will be talking a mindful walk along your normal walking route.
Bringing awareness to your body while you walk can change the outcome of your day. And since we walk our dogs at least once (if not 4!) times a day, this is a perfect time to practice mindfulness and how to use it daily.
How simple, right?
To practice this skill, head to a safe place, like your living room or backyard.
Now, bring your attention to the act of walking by using its physical sensations and leaving our anxiety at home for a minute.
- Notice how your feet make contact with the ground.
- Remember your own breath as your feet slowly and evenly hit the ground, inhaling and exhaling with each step.
- Notice how it feels to feel supported by the ground and what the sensations are at the bottom of your feet.
- Notice your senses, the sights, sounds, and smells. Notice all of the colors. Are they vibrant or dull?
When you start to have thoughts about other things, that’s totally ok! Keep bringing your focus back to your breath, your feet on the ground or the weight of the leash in your hands when you do.
Bringing your focus back IS the exercise. This is how you build your peace muscle, AKA rewire your brain for less anxiety.
Now, let’s take it outside with your dog. As you’re walking, marvel at how colorful the leaves on the trees are, pay close attention to the smell of the grass, and observe like a scientist how your dog goes from one spot to the next.
Let your dog sniff freely and just watch him or her closely without judgment. Feel everything deeply. If you find yourself worrying about what’s for dinner or some unrelated thought, come back to your focus, which can be the feeling of your breath in your lungs, the site of your dog’s fur, or the leash in your hand. Just keep.Coming.Back.
Your only job: Just observe it all.
Remember, anxiety and focus cannot physically live in the brain at the same time. So choose focus.
This exercise should BLOW YOUR MIND if you get honest and slow down enough to really do it.
Share something below that you would have never noticed before on your regular route, had you not been paying close attention.
I can’t wait to hear what you discover!
You’re doing it!!!
PS: if you missed yesterday’s challenge, check your email. If you’re new here, sign up for the challenge below!
Record your feelings in a journal to the questions below.
- Your emotions before as well as after your mindfulness exercise
- What feelings/thoughts/sensations came to you during your mindfulness exercise?
- Is there any change in your body? (pain reduction, bowel movements, more flexibility, fewer headaches etc)
- What’s one thing you are grateful for today?