Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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When my beloved 15-year-old Bichon, Chloe, recently died, I naturally grieved. But as time passes, instead of getting easier, in some ways, it's getting more difficult. Why? It's not just her physical presence that I miss; it's that deep and real emotional attachment and the continuous reminders of how to live life.
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If you pay close attention, there are valuable - and healthy - lessons we can all learn from our dogs.
Forgiveness. Ignore your dog…scold them… cut their walk short… feed them stinky food…leave them with strangers when you go on vacation. Dogs hold no grudges; they simply move on. Healthy benefit: Living in the moment and letting go of negative feelings contributes to less stress, lower blood pressure and more happiness, which is a boost to your immune system.
Focus. When dogs have a job to do, they give that job their upmost attention. Throw a ball, and they'll chase it - not remember mid-task that they have to go chew their bone instead. That can wait. And when they do finally chew that bone, they lie down and focus… just on that bone. Healthy benefit: Since it's been found that multitasking is counter-productive - affecting your attention and memory - it makes sense that focusing on one task at a time will benefit you and make you feel calmer and more accomplished.
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Nap. Dogs know when they need to rest - and they honor that need. They don't ignore it because they have other things to do, or feel guilty about napping in the middle of the day. They get comfy, settle in, and sleep…deeply. Healthy benefit: Studies show that napping has a host of benefits, from lowering the risk of dying from heart disease to enhancing alertness and performance.
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Stretch. Dogs rarely get up from a sitting position without stretching first - usually a series of deep, gentle and luxurious stretches, at that. Healthy benefit: Stretching not only relieves stress, it also keeps your body limber and improves muscle strength and flexibility.
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Smile. Okay, maybe dogs don't smile (although I swear mine did), but a wag of the tail is a reliable substitute for it. Dogs express themselves without hesitation or self-consciousness. Healthy benefit: Happy people have younger hearts and arteries, lower blood pressure and a longer life expectancy than unhappy folks; plus they're better equipped to deal with pain and stress. Many experts say that the mere act of smiling results in making you feel happy, even if you weren't before you turned the corners of your mouth upward.