5 Ways Becoming a Dog Parent Has Brought Me Joy

5 Ways Becoming a Dog Parent Has Brought Me Joy

Anyone who has spoken to me in the last two months know I became a proud parent to a pup. Since entering my life in April, Stella has been the main topic of my conversationsand rightfully so. She has brought me major happiness in a short period of time. Various studies support the idea that dogs can improve mental health overall.

It’s surprising just how much this eleven-pound bundle of fluff has changed my life for the better. Here are five ways becoming a parent to a dog has filled my world with bliss:

1. Unconditional Companionship

This is fairly obvious one but it is fundamental! The companionship dogs give humans can provide a lot of happiness, and the relationship between dogs and their owners can be strong and special. Dogs are known as man’s best friend, after all.

Living alone in New York City can be a pretty lonely experience. Getting a dog helped me feel less alone, even if she primarily communicates in barks, tail wags, and licks. She quickly bonded with me and now she tends to follow me around the apartment. Stella is sitting on the couch next to me as I write this sentence.

The best part is that I know she is always thrilled to see me when I come home. She’s never mad at me for leaving her, all she cares about is that I’m with her now. If only humans could be so forgiving!

2. More Responsibilities

Some may argue that having more responsibilities is a bad thing, but the duties that come with dog parenting have actually been good for me. Since getting Stella, I’ve been waking up a bit earlier than I normally would. My schedule is set around her feeding times and walks, and we’ve developed a solid routine.

Waking up earlier has increased my productivity (after that first walk, I try to jump into another task), and having a schedule again has also helped me find a comfortable groove (I’m a freelancer, so my work schedule tends to vary.) The more productive and scheduled I am, the better mood I’m in.

I also get to see how doing things for her makes her happy, which in turn makes me even happier. She gets so excited every time the dog bowl is at her feet, and every walk is an adventure to her. Sure, I don’t always want to wake up at the crack of dawn for that first walk of the day, but getting up for her is worth it!

3. Increased Physical Contact

With companionship comes a familial closeness. While not all dogs are interested in being touched by humans, many do enjoy some form of physical affection like pats, scratches, and belly rubs. This definitely depends on the dog, so always ask an owner before touching a dog that is not yours and take time to discover what forms of contact your dog likes.

Let’s be real: your dog’s decision to lick your face is not an expression of love (this tends to actually mean they want food.) It sure can feel like love to humans though! Making physical contact with pets can bring us joy.

I lucked out with my little fluff. She loves belly rubs, head scratches, licking my feet, and occasionally snuggling with me for a nap. All of our forms of physical contact make me pretty happy. I can’t help but love her a little more whenever she puts her little head on my thigh.

4. Increased Physical Activity

The added responsibilities of owning a dog can really increase your physical activity. Regular walks get you closer to hitting that 10,000 step goal. Throwing balls and frisbees can increase your heart rate as well. My dad fully works out whenever he is playing with our active Australian shepherd.

Of course the amount of exercise you’ll do depends on your living situation and the type of dog you have. People with adequate yards do not have to go on walks as often, an some dogs don’t require much exercise. I think it’s safe to say that your physical activity generally increases from owning a pet though, so let the endorphins flow!

Stella is pretty tiny so she doesn’t need to exercise a ton, but the steps from our walks definitely add up and the occasional tug-of-war doesn’t hurt either.

5. More Socialization

Many dogs are social creatures, and owning a dog can make socializing a more regular part of your life. Walks, visits to the dog park, and other dog activities can all lead to meeting and communicating with new people.

Almost every time I take Stella for a walk, someone will come up to us to say hi and ask what breed she is. These encounters have led to quick chats, deep conversations, budding friendships, and even exchanged phone numbers. I’m pretty sure I’ve interacted with more strangers in these last two months than I have my entire two years living in New York City and I have a little puppy to thank for that. The increased socialization can add little moments of happiness to my day.

Dogs can truly be a great conversation starter. If striking up conversations makes you feel uncomfortable, bring your dog to a public environment they are comfortable in and let them be the center of attention when people approach you. Fur babies tend to steal the spotlight in the best way.

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How has your dog or pet brought you joy? Share in the comments below.

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Tarot Cards & Self-Care

Tarot Cards & Self-Care

Shuffle the deck. Breathe. Pick a card and place it face up. Look at it. Let the name of it sit on your tongue. Pick another card and do the same thing. Then another. Think. Keep breathing.

To me, reading Tarot Cards is similar to thinking out loud in a therapy session. While I’m not suggesting replacing mental health treatments with a deck of cards (always seek help when you need it!), this ancient practice can be help you contemplate and try to understand your circumstances.

Some of you may be skeptical reading this. How could a deck of cards help with self-care? Spiritual rituals like Tarot aren’t exactly scientific, so why continue to keep this tradition alive? 

Personally, I like Tarot Cards because the images encourage self-reflection. To me, it isn’t a spiritual thing as much as it is a analyzation exercise. Exploring the meaning of the cards can help you gain a new perspective on your life.

Tarot readings have been a part of my regular self-care routine since 2017. I usually do a three-card spread every morning as a way to look at the day ahead, but I’ve also done readings at random times of day using alternate layout spreads. There are multiple ways to look at three-card spreads, but I typically do past, present, future or body, mind, spirit. 

tarot cards three card spread
Three-Card Spread: Seven of Wands, Three of Swords, The Tower

Three-card spreads are a great starting point compared to complicated ten-card spreads, as you’ll only have three images to contemplate. It’s best to start simple. Shuffle the deck however you please and lay out three cards.

I spend a lot of time looking at the cards. Doing so feels a bit like meditation if you’re really focused. Try to remember to breathe as you take in each image.

You can easily sense the tone of each card without knowing the classical background of the deck. The numerous symbols, colors, shapes, numbers, and illustrations assemble to create distinct vibes. What does this card make me feel? 

After analyzing the cards on their own, try to examine the placement of the cards and the connections between the cards. Why is this card in this specific spot? Are there any running themes in the cards?

In the spread above, I particularly noticed storms clouds and grey skies in both the Three of Swords and Tower cards. Grey gives off uncertain vibes, so I understood the cards to mean I would be in a shaky, odd place today, tomorrow, and possibly beyond that. The Three of Swords card felt appropriate in the present slot as well, as the aftermath of my breakup continues. Ah, the pain!

You may be wondering if I felt upset or discouraged by this spread. A heart is literally being stabbed by swords and the Tower card looks pretty dangerous. In my opinion, not one of the 78 cards are negative, even the Death card, because nothing in life is strictly good or bad. What really matters is perspective.

The Three of Swords card is about pain, which is generally perceived to be a negative thing. But pain, including the pain of my break-up, will help me grow. I wouldn’t be fully living if I never experienced pain.

I also try not to take the cards too seriously or give the cards too much power. I subscribe to a che sera, sera attitude in life. In Tarot terms, no card placements are permanent and you’ll get different cards all the time. In reality, tarot card are just thick pieces of paper and they only have to occupy as much brain space as I allow them to.

Where do you start if you want to try out Tarot? I suggest having a reading done by an experienced reader if you’ve never done so before. Ask a friend or family member for suggestions of readers they have gone to in the past. Having your cards read for the first time can be a really cool experience!

If you’ve had readings in the past, then I suggest diving in by buying a deck to call your own. Here are a few decks to check out:

Start by simply looking at each card in your deck and writing down your initial reactions before moving on to spreads. Take your time and be patient with yourself. You’ll gain experience and speed as you continue to read your cards. Eventually, you may feel comfortable enough to do readings for other people!

Have an opinion on Tarot Cards? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’ll have more posts on Tarot in the future, so stay tuned!

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