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meditation

Meditation for a New Normal

Regardless of how you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice movement, it’s likely you’ve felt it  in some way. Maybe on a small scale your grocery store trips have become less (or more) frequent. Or maybe you haven’t been able to go to events with friends. Or maybe it’s been further reaching, and your day-to-day work situation is upended. Maybe your financial situation is too. Or maybe you or a family member is sick. And in the past few weeks, glaring racial inequality has caused an awakening to injustice that’s shaken people’s worlds.

There are countless ways 2020 has changed our lives (can you believe we’re only halfway through!?). Amidst the upheaval–  the disruption of routines and habitual ways of thinking also creates an incredible opportunity. For some, this time can be beneficial for introducing practices and habits that can help a person in all aspects of their life. As people spend more time alone, introducing or deepening a meditation practice can be a powerful way to not just survive, but also grow, through this unprecedented time.

Relieve Stress and Improve Health

A new study from researchers at San Diego State University and Florida State University found that in April 2020, during the pandemic, roughly 70% of Americans experienced moderate-to-severe mental distress – triple the rate of 2018. Racial injustice and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are creating the perfect storm for even more severe mental health disparities.

As people attempt to deal with the real and imagined dangers of their current situations and the unrest in the world, many of us can become filled with anxiety, fear, and insecurity. The resulting physiological effects can then negatively impact our physical health. Meditation offers us the opportunity to better deal with disempowering thoughts and emotions that arise, while also improving physical well-being (Note: sometimes beginning a meditation practice while experiencing intense difficulty or trauma can intensify the discomfort and leave us feeling worse than before. It’s important to find a meditation practice that meets you where you are and supports your needs). 

Many meditation apps and in-person studios have responded by making their offerings more widely available online or curating them for certain groups. Los Angeles-based meditation app Headspace is offering free services and guides to help people cope with stress by introducing Headspace for Healthcare Professionals, Headspace for Work, and Headspace for Educators, in addition to teaming up with the Office of New York Governor Cuomo to offer free meditation and mindfulness content for all New Yorkers. Kaiser Permanente announced that it added meditation app Calm to its digital self-care portfolio, so Kaiser Permanente members can access it at no cost.

Guided meditations through apps are wonderful entryways into meditation for many people. However, they’re also an example of the external stimuli which so many of us have become addicted to. Because of this, it’s extremely beneficial to learn a meditation technique with a teacher. With a teacher, you’re better able to create a sustainable practice that evolves with you and doesn’t rely on external tools. They can also help navigate stumbling blocks. It’s important to keep in mind there are many different types of meditation. Similar to “sports” serving as an umbrella term, meditation encompasses different categories that engage and affect your brain differently. Some also require more mental effort and nuanced practice than others. 

Learn more about different meditation categories and physiological effects in the MedFit webinar “The Meditation Landscape”)

Transform Isolation Into Solitude

Regardless of how deeply one’s mental state has been affected during this time, many people have found themselves spending more time alone. And while physical distancing, by nature, is isolating and can take a toll on one’s mental health, being alone and lonely are two different things. During meditation, when we’re alone and become still, our emotions and thoughts rise to the surface. This can be difficult. By developing a meditation practice, we’re able to cultivate a sense of solitude and deepen our relationship with ourselves. Meditation is a powerful gateway into self-acceptance, stillness, and gratitude.

It’s common for weeks, months, years, and even decades to pass by while being engulfed in the busyness of our lives. The demands and responsibilities can seem endless. It may not feel like there’s time or it’s not the best use of our time to meditate. However, meditation is often most beneficial for those who think they don’t have time to meditate.

It’s by creating the space in our day that creates the space in our minds to pause. And through this brief pause we’re able to develop a more finely tuned awareness of ourselves, our thoughts and emotions, our needs, and our behaviors. We also become more aware of what our priorities are and how we can make adjustments in our inner and outer lives to meet our needs. By becoming more aware, we’re able to cultivate the patience, resilience, and compassion to make better choices.

The extended pause or disruption to our day-to-day lives is a powerful time to adopt or deepen a meditation practice. Many of our current habits are linked to cues from our environment and schedule. So when your life changes, it can be a great time to establish new routines because your environment and schedule are changing anyway. It might feel easier to adopt a meditation practice when it’s moving along with a larger transition, especially when it includes more time alone.

Cultivate Compassion and Deepen Communication 

Even though many people are practicing physical distancing for public health reasons, thankfully social interactions with friends and family can continue. Zoom, FaceTime, and even a quick phone call or text can make a big difference in our daily lives. Meditation gives us the opportunity to not only deepen our relationship with ourselves, but also improve our relationships with one another. As we cultivate a deeper sense of peace, happiness, and compassion within, the people around us benefit as well. 

Meditation can help curb stress, which can prevent negative environments that lead to tension between people. By taking responsibility for and curbing your stress you can also benefit your relationships with others. Certain meditations can even help strengthen feelings of connection. Regardless of the physical distance between people, the feeling of connection and belonging can remain strong.

In particular, compassion and loving-kindness meditations can literally train your brain to feel more compassionate and loving. And research shows that empathy and compassion also have tremendous benefits for health and wellbeing — improved happiness, lower inflammation, decreased anxiety and depression, and even a longer life. 

Meditation for a New Normal

Living through a pandemic and racial justice revolution can bring up a wide range of emotions, fears, and challenges. There’s no right or wrong way to feel or deal with it. If you’re looking for a way to use the disruption to change habits and create a meditation practice, remember that the mind, just like a muscle, can be strengthened. While there won’t be an overnight transformation, you can begin to develop the neurological pathways that will help you now and in the future.

As cities and countries begin to reopen, a push toward the old way of doing things and being in the world arises. Be vigilant and strategic about making room for the things you’ve found and cultivated during this time, such as meditation, so they can become part of your new normal. Old habits and patterns can get locked inside of us. Be clear about what you want to bring into this next phase of your life. What did you discover about yourself or life you want to hold onto? Write them down so you have a place you can come back to and remember. Developing a meditation practice isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon – so be patient as you discover what works for you in each phase of your life.


Angela Singer has been studying and practicing meditation and mental wellness for 8 years. Through earning meditation and wellness coaching certifications, she’s created a toolbox of accessible mental wellness workouts for all levels. She is the founder of Traverse Meditation Studio, a boutique, virtual studio.

She teaches her students and clients to unlock their natural intelligence and creativity, reconnect to their flow state, and achieve professional and personal resiliency. Through her research of neuroscience, neuroplasticity, meditation, positive and perceptual psychology, and the mind-body connection, she’s found that human beings can have an immense amount of power over how we experience life. When we develop and practice this superpower daily, it can become a habit that transforms how we live our lives.

Among many other things, meditation and mental wellness workouts have helped her step into her expression as a voice actress, painter, and entrepreneur. It brings her so much joy to share these practices with clients to help them experience more of what they want in life.

stress-emotional-eating

Stop Stress Eating with These 3 Simple Steps

Do you often eat as a reaction to stress, anxiety, and other unwelcome feelings? Do you turn to high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” to cope with negative emotions? Discover why you stress eat in the first place, why it works, and some simple steps for doing some damage control.

Some say it’s “stress eating.” Others call it “self-medicating.” Psychologists describe it as “emotional eating.” Whatever words are used, if you often (over)eat to self-soothe negative feelings such as boredom, stress, anxiety, or anger—in other words, for reasons other than hunger and having a healthy appetite—it’s likely you’re a stress eater. Not only does stress eating increase your odds of overeating, my own original research on overeating reveals that Emotional Eating is the #1 predictor of overeating and becoming overweight or obese.1,2

Here’s what stress eating might look like:

For Ann, stress-related overeating episodes often start after work, especially when she’s on deadline with a large project. First, she visits her local supermarket to buy a bag of potato chips, a pint of her favorite ice cream, and a bar of creamy dark chocolate. Then she heads home, changes into comfortable clothes, and turns on the TV. Settling into bed surrounded by her favorite comfort foods—and sometimes, a glass of red wine—Ann begins what she describes as “zoning out”—eating until she feels calmer—often to the point of falling in and out of sleep well before bedtime.

All the while, Ann remains vaguely anxious and distressed about her workload, and dependent on food to manage her darker moods. And she’s concerned her stress eating is keeping her overweight. At the same time, on a not-quite-conscious level, she senses the chips and chocolate allay her anxiety in some way. And she’s right: High-sugar, high-fat, high-carb food (products) do indeed relieve emotional tension. Here’s why.

The Food-Mood Connection

The idea that the food you eat can actually medicate your mood and vice versa—that your mood may motivate you to make certain food choices—was given the scientific stamp of approval in the 1970s when Judith Wurtman, PhD, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uncovered a fascinating facet of the emotional eating enigma. Call it nutritional neuroscience, psychoneuroimmunology, or the study of food and mood, Wurtman launched a new field of nutrition research that has confirmed what many of us know intuitively: what you eat affects your mind and mood, your tendency to pile on pounds, even the quality of your life.

What Wurtman discovered is this: About twenty minutes after you eat a carbohydrate-rich food (such as bread, potatoes, cookies, or cake), your brain releases a naturally occurring substance called serotonin; in turn, you feel more relaxed and calm. Want to feel more perky? Consume a lean, high-protein food such as fish, and the substance that’s released (norepinephrine) lets you feel more awake and energetic (unlike the kick you get from caffeine, you’re not stimulated, just more alert). And certain fats in food end up as endorphins—substances in the brain that produce pleasurable feelings.3 More recent research, specifically on stress eating, reveals that women under stress experience strong sugar cravings that lead to overeating high-carb, high-sugar foods.4

The Food-Mood Syndrome: It Can Be a Vicious Cycle

Here is where the food-mood link really gets interesting. Since Wurtman’s discovery about the food-mood connection, we also know that the sugary, sweet, or crunchy and fried processed food products that emotional eaters most often choose to get a serotonin high actually contribute to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals that can cause your emotions to plummet, leading to a serious case of the doldrums.

In this way, the food-mood syndrome can become a vicious emotional cycle. You’re feeling down, so you reach for, say, a prepackaged brownie. Sure, the brownie’s sugar and white-flour carb content will soothe and calm you, but its high sugar content has a hidden side effect: it actually depletes some nutrients that could help combat depression. In other words, the sweet concoction may somehow soothe your soul, but isn’t it ironic that at the same time, it may also contribute to anxiety, depression, and other unpleasant emotions?

3 Smart Steps to Stop Stress Eating

Want to get the mood-calming, feel-good benefits of serotonin without the vitamin and mood-robbing downside inherent in high-sugar, highly processed foods? Here are three smart, simple, proactive steps you can take to curtail stress-related overeating episodes—without the downside.

Be “B” wise. From dreary doldrums to a deeper depression, various B vitamins—including B1, B2, niacin, folate, and B12—can help you bust the blues. But most B-family relatives are processed out of refined foods, such as white flour. To help defeat depression, “B” wise and consider some especially good B-abundant blues busters found in unprocessed, unrefined grains (oats, millet, brown rice, etc.), fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Consuming vitamin B–rich greens such as spinach are especially good for overcoming overeating.

Shake the sugar habit. Consuming a lot of refined white sugar both damages and destroys B vitamins in the body; in this way, it contributes to deficiencies. Cut down on, or eliminate sugar from your diet, and depression often lifts—although why this is so isn’t well understood. One theory is that the “high” a person derives from sugar is due to elevated glucose (blood sugar) and feel-good endorphins, which produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Conversely, when a diet is low in sugar and high in B vitamins, levels of B vitamins, glucose, and endorphins remain stable, reducing odds of depression.

Sip some tea. Consuming too much alcohol to relax and de-stress can cause the loss of certain B vitamins—and deficiencies of vitamins B6 and niacin, especially, can bring you down. Not only does excessive alcohol consumption reduce the absorption of B vitamins, but it also contributes to protein and mineral deficiencies. The operative words here are “too much” and “excessive,” meaning, the tipping point is different for different people. Consider this: In place of wine to de-stress, try sipping some soothing herbal tea.

Stopping Stress Eating

The science that studies nutrients in the foods we consume, and the way they influence our brain chemistry and emotions, provides a peek into how food and the mind and body work together. By being aware of whether you “feel” like eating to assuage stress or to appease a healthy appetite, each food you choose to eat may be looked at as an opportunity to fine-tune your moods and emotions, while nourishing your body.

In other words, the key to being a success at stopping stress eating is making a commitment to eating for feel-good feelings, when you have a healthy, authentic appetite for food, and when you’re anticipating the pleasure and experience of true mind-body nourishment.

 

Article originally printed on integrativeeating.com. Reprinted with permission from Deborah Kesten. 


Deborah Kesten, M.P.H., is an award-winning author, specializing in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. Her expertise includes the influence of epigenetics and diet on health, Lifestyle Medicine, and research on the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle to treat overeating, overweight, and obesity. She and her husband, behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D., collaborate on research and writing projects. Her latest book, “Whole Person Integrative Eating” was named the “Winner” in the Health category by the 2020 Book Excellence Awards.

 

References:

  1. Larry Scherwitz and Deborah Kesten, “Seven Eating Styles Linked to Overeating, Over- weight, and Obesity,” Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing 1, no. 5 (2005): 342–59.
  2. Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz, “Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Program for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14, no. 5 (October/November 2015): 42–50.
  3. Judith J. Wurtman, Managing Your Mind and Mood through Food (New York: Rawson Associ- ates, 1986).
  4. Danielle Marques, et al, “Sweet craving and ghrelin and leptin levels in women during stress” Appetite, Vol 80, September 1, 2014, 264-270.
stressed at computer

Stress and the Psychology of Heart Health

Most of us accept stress as a necessary evil that is a part of the American lifestyle. But living under stress day in and day out can lead to heart disease. According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged stress can contribute to high blood pressure and circulatory problems, and if stress makes you angry and irritable, you are more likely to have heart disease or even a heart attack.

active adults walking

Can movement be therapy for emotional stress?

The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus.

Emotional stress makes life overwhelming. Sometimes, we experience an extremely stressful or disturbing event, while at other times we accumulate the stress of upsetting interactions over time. In either case we are left feeling emotionally out of control and helpless. Our minds feel like a hamster spinning away on a wheel, leaving us drained, heavy, disconnected and incapable of making rational inferences and decisions. Our bodies feel like logs being lugged around, making daily chores onerous.

Irrespective of how it’s triggered, emotional and/or psychological disharmony has wide-ranging physical reactions and symptoms. While most of us know of the emotional impact (feelings of sadness, anger, fear, guilt, self-doubt and many more) the physical impact is not widely spoken about. This could include muscular tension, aches and pains, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, breathlessness among others.

Everyone’s triggers and responses are unique. Healing from emotional stress, hence, cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. If symptoms persist for long or are severe, do seek professional help. That said, there are a few practices that can aid in self-healing.

Movement

Movement can be therapeutic for a number of reasons. As we know, stress impacts mental and physical equilibrium, turning the body into a repository of unpleasant side effects. A prolonged state of negative emotions like anger, fear and hyper responsiveness in daily life, adversely impacts the muscular and nervous system. Movement and exercise can help address this at a dual level. At a physical level, it helps by releasing endorphins (aka happy hormones) and calming adrenaline. The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus. Target at least 30 minutes of exercise/movement on most days. It could be any activity that interests and engages you, be it dancing, yoga, sport, running, swimming, cycling. It might feel better to do it in company, to help break any self-imposed isolation. You could split it up over intervals during the day (though half an hour is not much of an ask to reset yourself and get your mind, body and life on track!).

Mindfulness

Try to pay full attention to the activity and how you perform it. Stay with the process. The mind will eventually tune into the rhythm of the body, making you more ‘mindful’ of the activity and yield a positive sensory outcome, including from deep within. For some, this may be attained with gentler workouts, and for some more intense activities could derive the response, depending on one’s personality as well as physical capacity. Remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way here. The beauty of movement is that it serves all, and it can be scaled up and down dynamically to make you feel most connected and generate positive inner vibes.

Deep breathing

Focus on the act of breathing and on how the breath goes in and out of the body (‘mindful’ breathing). It acts as another powerful therapeutic tool. This is true even during movement. Movement becomes more mindful when you focus on the breath while executing it, maximizing positive benefits physically (more oxygen, less physical stress) and mentally (greater connection with self, less mental stress). It aids in giving the mind a much-needed break while energizing the body.

Good sleep

Try maintaining sleeping and waking up time and hours even though it may seem silly or impossible. For those with sleeping difficulties or insomnia, the body clock needs resetting, requiring some repetitive reinforcements to break the negative cycle. It’s essential to retrain the body and mind to rejuvenate, rest and recuperate.

Changes won’t happen overnight, but all these practices together can go a long way to impart a greater sense of control, which propels us towards a happier state. It’s about reclaiming peace, being kind to ourselves and catalyzing inner healing.


Vani Pahwa is a Functional Fitness specialist with over fifteen years of experience, and cutting-edge certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally recognized fitness institutes. She is also a Cancer Exercise Specialist (perhaps one of the first in the country). Sought after for her multi-disciplinary fitness modules and expertise, Vani has conducted fitness workshops for leading corporate houses, conditioning and training camps for various sports communities, training programs for coaches, personal training programs for CEOs of multi-nationals, athletes, junior and senior sports professionals among others. Her combination of specialties, client profile and range, and extensive work experience makes her unique in the country. She is the founder of Body in Motion.

Original article published in a leading national daily:  https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/movement-as-a-therapy-for-emotional-stress/article26566357.ece

yoga mats

4 Simple Ways Your Fitness Routine Can Benefit from Self-Care

When you think of taking care of your health, exercise is one of the first things that comes to mind. You know you need to stay active and stay in shape to protect your body, but what you may not realize is that you also need self-care to protect your mind. Combining self-care and fitness is the best wellness move you can make. Here are some ways to do it.

Start Working Out More at Home

Sticking to your fitness goals is important. If getting to the gym causes you stress or interferes with your schedule, though, you may want to think about building a gym at home. It’s easier than you think, and can make getting those daily workouts in easier on your schedule. You can use any extra space you have, whether it’s your garage, a spare room or a basement, and quickly set up a workout space in your home. The equipment you fill it with will hinge on your needs and the amount of space available, but for most people, basic workout equipment, like a jump rope and dumbbells, is enough to get a good workout at home and stick to their budget.

Consider Holistic Wellness Practices

A regular fitness routine will help keep your body in shape. Working out can help enhance your mood as well, but it’s not really enough to manage your mental health. You also need to find ways to help your body recover after all that effort, which is where holistic self-care practices come in handy. Incorporating practices like acupuncture, Pilates, massage and chiropractic treatment can be beneficial for relieving stress and helping keep your emotions in balance. Yoga is another practice that complements most physical fitness routines, and it improves strength and flexibility in your body. Runners can use beginners poses such as downward facing dog and pigeon to help build more muscle and keep joints flexible, all while reducing stress.

Treat Pain Through Self-Care and Exercise

If you suffer from chronic pain, you can combine self-care and fitness to find relief. The trick is to find simple workouts that get your body moving while helping your mind feel calm.

Yoga is also a good choice here, but you can also try doing tai chi. This slow, intentional practice is especially effective for seniors looking to decrease pain symptoms and decrease their fall risk.

You can treat more than arthritis with exercise and self-care, though. Studies have also shown that regular physical activity can help Alzheimer’s patients, and exercise may even play a role in preventing this debilitating condition. Research around this is still limited, but one thing that’s for sure is that adults who exercise are less prone to other chronic health conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers can all be prevented with the right fitness routine.

Help Yourself Age Well with Fitness and Self-Care

Older adults who are looking to stay in their best shape also need to factor self-care into the equation. Without self-care, you are leaving your body and mind vulnerable to the effects of chronic stress. Consistent levels of high stress can leave older adults struggling with heart disease, anxiety and other health issues. Staying active is a great way to care for your well-being, but you also need to make sure you are taking time to really enjoy life. Practicing daily mindfulness can help all adults live more fulfilling lives. Being mindful means taking time to pause and reflect on your life, and to be thankful for the things that make you happy. In between workouts, take a 15-minute break to meditate or to write down what you’re grateful for.

Physical fitness can go a long way in preserving your overall health, but it’s not the only wellness habit you should commit to for a better life. Finding ways to work self-care into your fitness routine and your everyday life can change your body and mind in many positive ways, so make time for more self-care, and keep working toward those health and fitness goals.


Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She created FitSheila.com to spread the word about her fitness philosophy and encourage her clients to stay positive. She incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions.

 

References

quitting as self care

Quitting as Self-Care

A few years ago the term self-care appeared as a means of describing anything that a person does to take care of themselves, like getting a massage, meditating, going for a walk in nature, or taking a relaxing bath in essential oils. All of the above are great ways to improve your physical and emotional health; however, they are often used not as a way to improve health, but to undo the damage caused by underlying stresses and simply restore one’s previous level of health.

Take meditation. It’s a practice that has been used for millennia as a means of trying to reach an enlightened state. But what do we often use it for now? As a means to calm ourselves down after an argument with a significant other or a way to gain a glimpse of equanimity before what we know will be a tough day at work.

In the above instances, meditation isn’t being used to take us to a higher place, it’s being used to get us back to baseline. And then the next day, when our job or our toxic relationships drag us back into sadness or anxiety, we use it again to bring us back up.

This is akin to using Tylenol to treat cancer. Cancer causes pain, so we take Tylenol to relieve the pain. This treats only the symptoms and ensures that we’re going to have to take Tylenol again and again each time the pain arises.

How would we stop that cycle? By curing the cancer.

Similarly, you can’t massage away a bad job and you can’t journal away a toxic relationship. In both instances, you’re merely treating the symptoms.

What’s the cure? Quitting.

Quit the job that’s taken your sanity day after day. Quit the relationships that have led you to the negative self-talk that requires hours of journaling and meditation to sort out.

Because all of the above self-care tools are amazing in their own rights, but are so much more helpful in improving your physical and mental health if you’re starting from a more stable baseline — which requires taking a good look (often through journaling!) at what is disturbing your peace.

So next time something has you anxious or depressed, grab that journal and write down what led to that feeling. Then start analyzing whether the cause can be quit. You may need a job-ectomy, or to have some toxic friends surgically removed from your friend circle.

And after you do, be sure to light some candles, throw some essential oils in a bathtub, and meditate your way to enlightenment — free of whatever was holding you back!

Learn more about strategic quitting for your health… register for Dr. Morski’s upcoming webinar:


Article reprinted with permission from Lynn Marie Morski.

Dr. Lynn Marie Morski is a Quitting Evangelist. She helps people to and through their quits through her book “Quitting by Design” and her podcast Quit Happens, along with speaking and coaching. She is also a board-certified physician in family medicine and sports medicine, currently working at the Veterans Administration. In addition, she is an attorney and former adjunct law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Visit her website, quittingbydesign.com

dog

Have a Fit Vacation with Fido

While most people picture their ideal vacation as lazing about on the beach getting roasted by the sun and sipping Mai Tais, you are not like most people. If you’re going to take time off and travel, you want to make the most of it and be active during your travels. A great way to stay motivated is to bring your dog along. When you travel with your pooch, the two of you can spend your time exploring cities on walks, traversing hike and bike trails, and generally being more active than your usual lazy vacationer.

Safety First

Whenever you travel with your dog, you want to remain safe at all times. While many dogs love trying new things, they can also be overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations. Always keep your dog on a leash unless you are in a designated off-leash park. To stay safe even when off-leash, be sure your pup has updated ID tags1 and that their microchip has your current contact information. Dogs shouldn’t go to public places without vaccinations and parasite prevention products, including heartworm medicine and flea/tick/mosquito repellant. If your dog gets in a scuffle with another pooch at the park, be careful not to get in between them; instead, work at distracting your dog to get out of the fray as soon as possible.

Enjoy the Open Road

If you’re going to bring your dog on vacation, keep the locale within driving distance. Airlines may technically be able to “ship” your dog to your destination, but the process of crating, drugging, and shipping your dog in an airplane’s cargo hold is traumatic2 for the little guy. In fact, the Humane Society strongly advises against animals traveling in cargo. Beyond the stress that it causes dogs, airlines also have a habit of losing — and sometimes killing — dogs. Instead of risking it, plan a trip within driving distance so you know your dog is in good hands.

A Lot of Personality

Dogs differ in personalities3 just like people do. While some dog owners know their pup would love a day touring microbreweries in the city by foot, others would feel anxious surrounded by all those strangers’ feet and the smell of alcohol. Keep your dog’s personality and how they respond to situations in mind when planning activities. For instance, don’t take a little dog with short legs on a 10-mile hike up a mountain. Or, if your dog isn’t big on water, don’t book an afternoon kayaking in hopes that this time he will get used to it. Remember: this is your dog’s vacation too — he wants to enjoy it just as much as you do.

Take a Breather

While a fun and active vacation is great, don’t over-exert your pup. Even the most high-energy breeds need to rest. Be sure wherever you’re staying is shaded and cool if outdoors or climate controlled if indoors. Always bring a supply4 of freshwater and a travel bowl that your dog is comfortable using. Whether hiking, biking, kayaking, or simply walking around the city, your dog needs frequent water breaks to stay hydrated and healthy. Finally, it’s okay to spend a little time apart — your dog doesn’t have to be the center of the social spotlight 100 percent of the time. If you are staying in a dog-friendly room and only plan to be gone for a couple hours, he should be fine hanging out there for the time being. If you want to take a little longer than a couple hours, look into a local doggie daycare5 or pet sitter that will watch your pup while you shop, go to a museum, or do whatever not-so-dog-friendly activity you want to do.

When you bring your dog on vacation, you can’t sit around and be lazy. Beyond the daily activity a dog needs, you have to be mentally alert and stay on top of their safety. Dogs generally shouldn’t fly — you’re going to want to plan a road trip for this excursion.  Keep your pup’s personality in mind, and don’t put him in a situation that will cause anxiety. Finally, find ways to take breaks so your dog doesn’t get too worn out by this vacation.


Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.

References:

1 Dog Park Safety Tips – Angie’s List
2 United Airlines had most animal deaths in 2017… – Market Watch
3 Dogs Have These 5 Major Personality Types – I Heart Dogs
4 Planning on Taking Your Dog on Your Next Vacation? – Whole Dog Journal
5 What’s the benefit of doggy daycare… – Mother Nature Network