Ever since I welcomed my puppy, Stella, into my life, I’ve noticed some things about how she treats her body. Unlike Stella, I have trouble recognizing what my body needs; Sensory Processing Disorder can make it hard to discriminate one feeling from another, and to identify what actions would fix an uncomfortable sensation. My dog, however, is especially in tune with her body. Sometimes I marvel at how good she is at giving herself what she needs. In honor of that, here are three things I’ve learned from Stella about listening to my body.
Test Your Surroundings
Stella has no qualms about finding a new place to hang out, no worries about offending others by moving. She goes from place to place as she wants. If the bed becomes too hot or too soft, she switches to the floor. If she feels too exposed around loud noises, she finds somewhere sheltered to lay.
The number of times I’ve kept myself from moving or adjusting my surroundings because I might stand out is too many to count. The little things can make a big difference in how you see your environment and how you feel in your body. Small adjustments help us regulate our nervous systems– a cold drink can wake you up while a warm one can calm you. Do you like your feet to feel secure, or do you prefer the freedom of open-toed shoes? Break up the monotony of your schedule by riding your bike to school or work every once in a while. I work on the computer a lot, and when my slouch has reached extreme levels, I know it’s time to get up and stretch. Take a page from Stella’s book, and feel free to get comfortable in your environment.
Express Your Emotions
Dogs don’t lie about how they feel; if you know how to read their body language, it’s easy to tell when they’re feeling happy, anxious, confident, or any other reaction to outside stimuli. There’s a certain amount of uncomfortable stimuli that we all must face every day. Maybe you hate the feeling of brushing your teeth, yet you do it because it’s important for your health. Maybe you’re sensitive to temperatures and dislike walking to work in the heat, but have limited transportation options. There are times that we have to prepare ourselves for and recover from unpleasant feelings that are unavoidable. There are also times when we suppress our instincts because we think we “should” be able to handle something. If there’s a way that you or someone else can adjust your surroundings to make you more comfortable, speak up!
Look for Joy
Stella loves a lot of things; she loves barking at rabbits, playing in sprinklers, and rolling in the grass. The things that she enjoys the most are the ones that require spontaneity. She approaches every dog she meets with a play bow; there’s no time like the present to make a new friend. She lives entirely in the moment, and whatever feels right to her is what she does– (sometimes to my immense frustration).
Look for joy in the little things. Find ways to have fun with boring activities. When no input is exciting or fun, we become understimulated and listless. So, jump in those puddles, paint with your fingers, and put your waste paper basket far away so you have to toss things from your desk. I don’t know, whatever brings you joy.