We all have something that makes our heart leap up. An unmistakable jolt of joy hits whenever we encounter that delicious stimulus. For me it’s the smell of coffee, freesias, rain and strawberries (though not necessarily all at once). It’s gentle sunshine, green grass and the solid, serene company of a tree. And one thing that always boosts my mood is a dog.
It is impossible to have a day so crap that the goofy grin of a dog will not bring at least a weak, half-hearted smile to my face. I used to have a dog who, instead of wagging her tail back and forth, would swing it around like a propellor. The sight of her bright-eyed little face, ridiculous grin and crazy hairy propellor tail thrashing away never failed to cheer me up.
So if I am feeling down, pat a friendly dog in the park and then feel better – what just happened there? The dog did not impart any words of advice or point out an alternative point of view on what is troubling me. He has not studied psychology, nor does he have any counselling qualifications. It’s just that sometimes the best way to be of service is to simply be happy.
I like to be helpful to my partner; he works hard and does a lot for me;. I often feel I can’t adequately reciprocate, but now I’ve realised that simply being happy is helpful to him.
Think about it – you’ve had a day with lots of chunky bits in it, you’re feeling drained, you come home and your partner is depressed and sitting in a heap. Now that would feel like you have yet another problem to solve. But if your partner is happy and relaxed and ready with a joke, that lifts your spirits and is actually helpful to you. (Having food ready helps too).
This is something I’ve tried to remember when tongue-tied and unsure how to be of assistance to someone struggling. When I was in the hospital, friends were sending me very silly, immature and hilarious memes to cheer me up. This was much more effective than if they had been sending solemn words of wisdom that reinforced what a serious and unpleasant situation I was in.
I was brought up to believe that attending to my own wellbeing and putting any kind of effort into pursuing my own happiness was selfish. Musing to myself about what makes dogs so uplifting to be around opened my eyes to the wisdom of the dog: being happy is in itself a service to others. You can’t give away what you don’t have. How can you go around spreading love, laughter and joy if you have none and don’t prioritise living in a way that regularly brings it into your experience?
By the way, cats are incredible too, but they have a different kind of energy. I have a few posts in me about cat wisdom too!