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Stress Awareness Month - How mindful dog walks can benefit you and your dog

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 and aims to increase awareness about the causes and cures for stress in our everyday lives. According to the Mental health Foundation, 74% of adults in the UK have felt stressed at some point over the last year and overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Millions of us around Britain are experiencing high levels of stress and it's damaging our health. Stress is one of the public health challenges of our time, however, it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health issues. Stress is an important factor in mental health issues as well as anxiety and depression. it's additionally connected to physical health issues like heart disease, issues with our immune system, sleep disorder and digestive issues. individually we need to know what's causing us personal stress and learn what steps we are able to want to reduce it for ourselves and the people around us.

To find out more about Stress Awareness Month and the 30-day challenge with the theme of “Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control.

Here at Fit4dogsuk, we're firm believers that our four-legged friends will usually help us cope with the stresses of daily life. during a recent survey of 1,500 dog owners, they found that 96% of them said that walking their dog makes them feel happy, helping them relax & unwind leading to them feeling more positive and energised while additionally strengthening the bond they have with their beloved canine companion. Sadly 93% of dog owners additionally said that they wish they could walk their dog more often, therefore with the pressures of daily life it can usually be hard to prioritise the things we know will facilitate us to de-stress.

5 Mindful Dog Walks - How mindful dog walks can benefit you and your dog.

A recent study conducted by Forthglade has found that 63% of dog owners regularly use their phones when out on a dog walk, while another 26% use the time to check social media or to reply to work emails.

Giving your dog the attention they need when out on a walk will ensure they are well-behaved and enjoy every moment.

To help owners, the experts and co-founders of Mindful Living and Our Dogs, Linda Blair and Caroline Wilkinson, have shared their tips on how to be more mindful when out on a walk.

1 Ditch the ball and engage your dog's nose

Previous studies have shown that as dogs sniff the world around them, it can be proven to reduce any stress they're feeling. Why not leave the ball at home and give them the chance to explore the outside area with their senses.

Caroline Wilkinson, Certified Animal Behaviourist explains “Sniffing actually has stress-reducing benefits, so it’s a much better activity for your dog to do on a walk than chasing a ball repetitively, which can cause physical pressure and large amounts of adrenaline. And while they may not be running - sniffing is tiring!”

So ditch the ball and enjoy a sniffy walk.

2 Be calm and create real connections

While dogs might not be able to directly understand everything we say, they are very aware of the tone of our voice. When addressing your pet, try to keep a calm tone as over-talking to our dogs can raise their stress levels.

Caroline Wilkinson, Certified Animal Behaviourist

“Over-talking to our dogs can raise their level of arousal, plus it doesn’t allow them the important processing time they need to understand what we’re asking.”

When walking your dog, try to use cues consistently and keep a calm, happy, tone of voice.”

3: Make the journey as interesting as the destination

While we often try to get from A to B why not try and use this on-lead part of the walk as an opportunity to engage with your dog.

Caroline Wilkinson explains some different ways you can use this time to engage.

“Use little pieces of food scattered in the grass to engage their nose. Try calm strokes up and down a small section of the lead to remove tension and give yourself an improved sense of calm. Take some deep breaths.

Stop every few minutes and ask your dog to do their favourite trick - engaging the task side of their brain, dampening the emotional side. Or try some calm strokes to give you both a boost of oxytocin, the bonding ‘love hormone.’

Engage with your dog during the on-lead part of your walk.

4: Leave your phone at home

As we are all connected on our phones we are losing connections with the world around us.

Heading out for a walk without your phone offers many benefits. Why not greet others you pass or take in the natural environment around you. You might not even miss your phone.

For our mindfulness experts, Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair and Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson, co-founders of ‘Mindful Living and Our Dogs’, walks should be an opportunity to unwind, switch off, and engage with our dogs.

“It’s concerning that so many of us are plugged into our phones whilst out walking our dogs. We think smartphones allow us to us ‘stay in touch' when in truth they prevent us from making meaningful social connections. When we text or email we’re exchanging information but we’re not connecting emotionally. Try leaving your phone at home and look around as you walk. Be curious, appreciate your surroundings, and greet other dog walkers. You will quickly enjoy the increased wellbeing and a growing sense of calm and belonging.” Linda Blair - Clinical Psychologist

Switch your phone off and engage with your dog on your next walk

5: Be curious

Appreciate the area around you out on your next walk,

Linda Blair, Clinical Psychologist challenge you to think in a different way on your next walk, No Zooming out, Now criticising, No comparing.

“Instead, simply engage your five sense to appreciate what’s happening all around you, right then and right there. See if you can describe your surroundings to yourself in detail, but without comparing them to anything else. Just notice. Mindfulness experts refer to this as ‘gentle curiosity’.”

Using this method will help you to enjoy your surroundings in fresh new ways.

To find out more about Stress Awareness Month and the 30-day challenge with the theme of “Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control.

Online Resources

  • Stress Management Society – Through the SMS website, you can find out in detail what stress is, how to identify its triggers and a wealth of information on managing it both at home and work. Click here to visit their website now.

  • Mind – Through the Mind website, you can access information on what stress is, how it can impact our mental health, and how to develop emotional resilience to cope with it. Click here to visit the Mind website now.

  • Mental Health Foundation – Through their website, the Mental Health Foundation provide information on stress, the signs and how we can help ourselves. They also share podcasts and animation to help us think about how we can cope with stress. Click here to visit their website now.

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