Mindful May Week 3: Spending Quality Time With Your Pet
Welcome to Week 3 of Mindful May! It's kind of hard to believe we're already half way through the month. Although this weekend is HOT in North Carolina, so that's making it feel like summer already. If you're following along, the focus of this week is a fun one: spending a little undivided quality time with your pet. If you don't have a pet, you can choose any activity that you enjoy doing but want to focus a little more on being present like gardening, cooking, or even eating dinner together with your family.
Phone-free Bedtime Ritual Reflections
Before we go into details about Week 3, let's discuss Week 2. How did it go? As I mentioned in Friday Favorites, my vision for a relaxing phone-free bedtime routine didn't go quite as planned. I was feeling pretty sick for the first half of the week. I did prioritize getting a lot of sleep, but it was more in the form of curling up in a ball at 5:30pm. There was no yoga or reading, but it was phone free! The second half of the week did go better. I practiced bedtime yoga and foam rolled my back which always feels amazing. I'm still meditating before going to bed and often times I don't remember the end of the practice which must be a sign I'm falling asleep quickly.
I do have to confess: not looking at my phone is harder than I thought. Embarassing but true. While I didn't use it, I definitely had the urge to look at my phone for whatever reason multiple times before going to bed. It's definitely a habit that will take more than a week to break...if I decide I want to.
One change I made that has helped to reinforce the habit is to make it so my phone doesn't let me use most of the apps from 9:30 pm to 5 am. I went to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime on my iPhone to set the specific hours and days. The "Always Allowed" section enables you to select any apps you still want to have access to during the downtime hours. For example, I added Headspace so I can meditate before bed. Okay, I also added my camera because: blogging.
In case it makes you nervous to not have access to any of those apps (like what if you *really* need to be on Instagram or send a text message?), no fear. When you click on the app you have the option to ignore the restriction for the day OR to turn the restriction back on in 15 minutes. I really like this feature, and I think I'll keep it for now. The whole point is that it's helping me to second guess if I really need to use the app instead of mindlessly checking Facebook for the umpteenth time. And really, mindfulness isn't about perfection it's about being more thoughtful about our choices.
Spending More Quality Time With Your Pet
So let's get back to Week 3. For me, that means more time with my cute little Jameson. I adore this little guy, and we spend a lot of time together. Pit bulls have an unfair reputation for being aggressive. In reality, they're the biggest cuddlers out there. The majority of them also want to be with you ALL THE TIME. Personal space? Nope. Jameson often follows me around at home. We go for walks together, play ball together, go up and down the stairs together, and sometimes just sit outside together. But often times even if I'm with Jameson, I'm not giving him my undivided attention. If I'm on a walk I'm probably talking on the phone or listening to a podcast, too.
Pets help to lower stress and boost happiness among other health benefits. I experience that any time I simply sit down with Jameson to pet him or throw a ball and see his incredibly happy grin as he sprints back and forth through the grass. Since my bedtime routine still needs a little work, I'm planning to continue some of those habits and to add in giving Jameson a little doggie massage for a few minutes before bed. This is a great daily (or weekly) habit for a pet owner because it's also a great opportunity to feel for any lumps, check their skin and coat, and to note any areas of discomfort on your dog or cat (or bunny, guinea pig, horse, etc.). If you have a puppy or kitten, this is also a perfect way to work on desensitizing them to handling every part of the body.
I'm also going to make an effort to do some extra fun things with Jameson this week. Here are some other ideas for quality time with your pet:
- Go for a walk or a hike and enjoy time with your dog instead of multi-tasking
- Teach your dog or cat a new trick. I recently discovered these exercise wheels (not an affiliate link) for cats that are basically like a giant hamster wheel. They surprisingly love them and I think it's the best idea for getting indoor cats to be more active.
- Devote extra play time each day. Jameson loves a game we play called "hide it". We ask him to stay while we hide his toy somewhere in the house. When we say "find it!" he searches around the rooms until he finds his toy. When he finds it we celebrate together.
- Buy them a new toy and enjoy watching their excitement for something new and fun. Maybe even take them to the store to choose their own!
- Give them a special treat. I'm a big fan of healthy options like veggies (carrots, green beans, and celery are all great). This is probably not shocking to you. Peanut butter and water mixed together and frozen into a popsicle mold is also a special treat for a hot day. (As a vet, I can't resist a gentle reminder that rich treats like pork or beef products can cause health complications and foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic are toxic).
What's your favorite activity to do with your pet?
How's your Mindful May going?
What's are you focusing on this week to be more mindful?