Shake it off

I really debated about whether to get a dog. My daughters desperately wanted a dog, my husband was game, but I wasn’t sure.

In the end, I decided to follow my own advice, and to “Choose the bigger life.”

And I’m so happy I did! Barnaby makes us very happy.

I’ve thought about three things, in particular, that Barnaby taught me — or more accurately, highlighted the truth of — since he joined our family.

1. Give warm greetings and farewells.

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In my book Happier at Home, I talk about why I resolved to give people in my family a warm hello and good-bye, every time they came and went from our apartment. I was surprised by how much this small change boosted our sense of love and attentiveness. But if I ever forget the wisdom of this effort, boy, Barnaby reminds me. Dogs are so happy to see you when you come through the door! Barnaby jumps to his feet, he wriggles, his tail wags. And it’s so, so nice. It really makes a difference when you feel like someone or some dog is truly happy to see you.

2. Go outside.

Since Barnaby arrived, I’ve spent a lot more time outside. And I love it: experiencing the weather, observing the patterns of my neighborhood, watching the days grow longer and shorter. I feel more connected to the natural world and to my environment. Now, I’ve known for a long time that going outside boosts happiness, but that knowledge didn’t make me go outside more often. But Barnaby needs to go outside! So we go. Interesting fact:  dog owners tend to get more exercise, and to enjoy it more, than people who go to the gym.

3. Shake it off.

Taylor Swift sings about this, and Barnaby actually does it. At first, I wondered why he kept shaking as though he was trying to get water out of his fur, when he was dry, but I learned that this is a stress reaction in dogs — when they’re anxious about something, they literally shake it off. Perhaps weirdly, I’ve tried this myself. When I feel a rush of stress about something, I do some jumping jacks. It really works.


A version of this article originally appeared on Gretchen Rubin’s website