All the dogs are playing and having fun. Then one dog does something rude or stupid. I’m not sure what.
All three dogs separate from each other and shake. A few moments later, they’re back to chasing each other around the yard.
Wouldn’t it be great if humans could learn to just shake it off when they get upset?
When the Body Leads, the Mind Follows
It has taken human scientists years to learn what dogs know instinctively. If you need to settle your emotions, settle your body.
We often describe emotional impact by talking about how it feels in our bodies:
- “It was like being punched in the gut.”
- “My heart is heavy.”
- “I’m so anxious my heart is going to pound out of my chest.”
It makes sense that if our emotions are causing our bodies to react, that doing something with our bodies could change our emotions.
Smiling can make you happier. A Welsh scientific study found that women who could not frown because of botox injections reported feeling better than women who could frown. And faking a smile can actually improve your mood.
When dogs shake it off, they’re probably causing their emotions to loosen as well.
When Dogs Are Unhappy
At home, you have many ways of telling if your dog is happy or unhappy.
But when dogs are interacting with other dogs—particularly strangers—unhappiness is usually shown in a tight body posture.
Playful dogs are loose and floppy.
Tense dogs are stiff. Their tails rise up straight or are tucked under their bodies. They lurch when they walk.
So shaking it off makes sense. If a dog decides he’s not facing a real threat, he’ll shake off the tension and move on. And it’s amazing how quickly it helps.
When People are Unhappy
Many of us, especially word geeks like writers, try to argue ourselves out of feeling bad.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt devastated by someone’s off-hand remark and argued with myself for days. “You’re ridiculous to feel so bad about this. It’s not a big deal. Stop feeling bad and move on.”
I can tell you it doesn’t help.
Maybe it’s time to learn from Honey and her doggy friends. If someone steps on my feelings, stop trying to argue myself out of feeling bad. Maybe it’s time to stop relying on my words to protect me and start relying on my body. And just shake it off.
After all, if it’s good for the dog, it just might be good for me.
Your Turn: When you’re feeling bad emotionally, do you use your body to feel better? Does your dog?