Monday 16th January is known this year as Blue Monday; officially the most depressing day of the year. Christmas is over, we’re all back to work, the weather is miserable and our resolutions are most likely failing (and in addition to all of that, we often find January is when we put ourselves under the most pressure to ‘be the best!’) So it is unsurprising to hear many of us feel despondent already. But don’t despair! I often find the ones who are best at lifting my mood at any time of the year, are Ted and Millie. This got me thinking about how our dogs can help us beat Blue Monday, the January blues (and any day really…)
THE POWER OF DOG
Towards the end of last year, I was invited by Oxford University to attend Wellness Week at one of their colleges; Lady Margaret Hall. The reason?? They recognise the benefits dogs can have on lifting our mood and improving our mental wellbeing. As part of their Wellness Week, several staff brought their dogs to the college and students were given the opportunity to sign up for some allotted dog walking or dog cuddling time. To say this was popular with the students is an understatement! This was one of the most popular activities on offer during Wellness Week…and there’s a good reason why!
HOW DOGS CAN HELP US BEAT BLUE MONDAY (AND ANY DAY!)
Us dog owners know only too well how being around our dogs can help lift our mood. So how can they help us beat Blue Monday too? Check out our 3 tips below…
1. Cuddles! Other than your usual cuddles with your dog, set out an allotted time each day to simply sit with your dog (NO phone or computer screen nearby) and focus on stroking them. They can help ground you and reduce stress. The Oxford University students loved sitting with the dogs and switching off for 30 minutes. Definitely try to do the same with your dog, without any distractions. You may think you do this already, but just try switching off everything around you first. I tried it and was surprised by the results…
2. Stretch! Ever noticed how often our dogs stretch?! It’s because it’s good for you!! We could learn a lot from our dogs. First thing in the morning, start the day as you mean to go on and stretch. I find it makes a great start to the day and also helps throughout the day, when I’ve spent too much time in front of computer screen! Try it out and see if it makes a different to your mood!
3. Get some fresh air! Students (and all of us really!) are often so cooped up in front of computer screens, television screens or our phones we fail to just appreciate our surroundings. Obviously our dogs need walking everyday, but sometimes, leave the camera behind or turn off notifications on your phone and truly appreciate the great outdoors! The students loved walking with the dogs around the grounds and felt revived once they had. So switch off and really enjoy the moment when walking with your dog. Again, I felt like I did this already, but I’ve quickly come to realise, I don’t do it enough without technology getting in the way!! Lesson learned.
DOGS RECOGNISED FOR THEIR MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
I find it extremely encouraging to see one of the world’s most renowned universities actively recognising the benefits a dog can bring to our mental health and making a positive effort to utilise them to assist their students. It is already well known in the dog world (see our previous post for Veterans With Dogs as an example), but it is wonderful to see this way of thinking being adopted in day-to-day life elsewhere, especially as somewhere as profound as Oxford University!
DOGS CAN HELP YOU BEAT BLUE MONDAY!
Does your dog help you alleviate stress? We’d love to know how (drop us a comment below!) In the meantime, what are you waiting for?!? Let’s beat Blue Monday together along with our four-legged friends. Take some extra time each day to cuddle them (like we need an excuse!), stretch and enjoy some fresh air and let’s remember not to put ourselves under so much pressure to be perfect. The most important person in your life already loves you for who you are…your dog.
Sarah, Ted & Millie xxx
* Thank you to Lady Margaret Hall for being so welcoming during my visit. It was a privilege to speak to your students and staff and experience firsthand the difference dogs have on maintaining a healthy mind.