It’s well documented that owning a dog contributes positively to our overall health. From reducing stress, lowering cholesterol and helping to prevent heart disease, sharing our life with a dog has lasting benefits.
But dogs do more than boost our wellbeing, they give us a reason to get up in the morning. In short, they give us purpose.
Having a purpose provides us with a sense of well-being and achievement. It carves out a well-defined route for us to follow into our future and helps shape our life so that we live it in a meaningful way.
The Simple Life
While life-goals are the ultimate in terms of leading a meaningful existence, yearly, monthly, weekly or even daily or hourly goals offer us a similar sense of purpose.
Having a strong sense of purpose simplifies life. Working towards a goal has a positive effect on our mood and changes our physiology for the better.
Not only that, but having a purpose focuses us by giving us something constructive to work towards. As such we naturally have less time for stress and negativity.
What’s more, having a purpose is so fundamental to our mental well-being that we struggle psychologically when we find it lacking.
Life without meaning
A life without purpose can feel empty and pointless. In fact, a meaningless existence leaves us vulnerable to anxiety and depression and artificial mood enhancers like drugs and alcohol.
So, what happens when we lose our purpose or are unable to define it in the first place?
Retirement, redundancy, the death of a loved one and incarceration are all life-changing events that can interrupt the natural flow of leading a meaningful life.
However, as anyone that shares his or her life with a dog will testify having a canine counterpart means that you must go on.
Our partnership with dogs has a long history. From guiding people that have lost their sight, to providing emotional support for veterans with traumas.
Dogs have been used to assist us in continuing to lead meaningful lives when we temporarily lose our purpose.
This collaboration is no more evident in the dog training programs growing in popularity across the United States that pairs unwanted dogs with prison inmates.
Sister Pauline Quinn began ‘A Pathway to Hope’ in 1981 with the intention of offering prisoners an opportunity to train dogs for the disabled.
Since then many different programs have been developed, and the anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s not only the dogs that benefit from the relationship.
These programs reduce anxiety, depression and incidents of aggression. Not only that, but they boost morale and give the inmates a sense of purpose that positively effects their emotional landscape.
But perhaps the most significant benefit of these human and canine collaborations is the reduction in the rate of recidivism.
On average, 50% of inmates after release end up going back to prison. However, this number drops to 17% for those who are supported by the Leader Dog Program and initiatives like it. We’d suggest having a dog in your life can bring purpose, compassion and improve self-esteem.
Finding Purpose in the Everyday
It’s not an exaggeration to say that having a purpose whether big or small changes lives. So, while many of us struggle with the idea of a life-purpose, it’s easy to find meaning in our daily lives.
Dogs provide a reason to get up in the morning. They change our focus so that we become more outward facing rather than introspective. They improve our health and social interactions not to mention increasing our physical activity.
Whether you benefit from a canine counterpart or not, finding purpose in your life will increase your overall well-being and sense of achievement. So, look for opportunities no matter how small to add this vital element to your life.
Photo courtesy of the author
Guest Author Bio
Practical Paw is written by Kim and Mike, with inspiration provided by our own dog, Theo (the happy ginger chap in the photo). Whether you are brand new to sharing your life with a dog or an experienced dog parent we are here to offer you a Practical Paw on all things dogs.
We believe in positive reinforcement, kindness and respect to our animals. It is our aim to promote the well-being and best practice for dog lovers for all aspects of being a responsible dog owner.
Blog / Website: Practical Paw
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