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The Barklife Way – 10 Mindfulness lessons we can learn from our dogs!

Have you ever thought ‘Ooh, I could learn a lot from my dog?’

They’ve got mindfulness nailed!
Living in the moment. Only caring about snoozing, chasing balls, belly rubs and where the next meal is coming from.
Dog mum Theresa Smith, 41, felt the same and one day when she was out for a walk with her dog Cooper, she decided to do something about it!
She created a Facebook page called The Barklife Way: Life Lessons From A Dog just 18 months ago and it’s been such a success she is about to publish her second book.
It’s no surprise that Theresa has built up a cult following with her relatable illustrations and observations – her page is like Hurrah For Gin for dog parents.
Theresa is an instructional designer and lives in Reading with Beagles Cooper, five, and his sister Lucy, 18 months and has helped thousands of people understand mindfulness through the eyes of our dogs.
She explained: “The idea came one day when I was walking Cooper one morning and texting, checking e mails and Facebook and so on and his friend Charlie, a Greyhound, came over.
“Cooper adores Charlie and loves chasing him, even though he’s a greyhound and he runs for his career. Cooper doesn’t care, he just goes for it.
“I thought about how I approach running. I time it, enter races, try to beat my friends and I’m not built to run at all. It’s all about being competitive and wanting to be the best.
“I looked at Cooper and his friend and thought ‘Wow, boy do I overcomplicate my life.’ And it was at that moment I thought, ‘Maybe he’s quite smart?’ He’s happy, he doesn’t worry about anything. There’s a story in that!”

Theresa and her mindfulness experts Cooper and Lucy!

And The Barklife Way was born!

Now Theresa posts every week, tackling all kinds of subjects through the eyes of a dog, from Jennifer Aniston’s recent break up with Justin Theroux to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding!
With almost 6,000 followers on Facebook, Theresa and Cooper’s messages resonate with a lot of people and she says the most important thing we can learn is to live in the moment.
She said: “Cooper simply wanders around in his life just being. I can’t imagine that. I have to plan things, so it’s nice to watch him and learn to just be.
“It’s such a good lesson for me. I’m always thinking of the future and making goals and targets. He’s happy with a tummy rub.
“I’ve even tried a mindfulness course but couldn’t concentrate on it so I actually use Barklife as my mindfulness. Create a story each week is like therapy.
“We know all the answers, we know to slow down and not to look back, so he’s made me chill. I’m not perfect, but I’m certainly better!”
Barklife comes out every Friday and Theresa is currently working on Season Two, Cooper and Friends, which charts their adventures.
Season Three begins in the summer and is called Sibling Love about Cooper and Lucy and will feature their take on the Royal Wedding of Harry and Megan (We can’t wait!)
These were our favourite life lessons from Season One.

1. Wag with your whole body

What can you learn from your dog?

What makes you as happy as just the mere mention of a walk does for a dog?
Your boss has just offered you that promotion you’ve been gunning for. You are so totally stoked.
It has been months of hard work and you totally deserved it. You demurely say thank you… but they pause and seem to be waiting for something more than that.
Can you drop the cool act and just let people know? It’s ok to show you’re happy – seriously, seriously happy.
You may find yourself connecting with more people.
WOOHOO PROMOTION! Shake that body!

2. Obey, but on your terms

What can you learn from your dog?

Do you get told what to do all the time? Whether you’re a student or working a job with a manager who constantly gives you instructions, there may be some times when you just don’t agree with what you’re being told to do.
Your dog comes up against the same problem. Now, it may not be worth actually pushing back and challenging some of the smaller things, so take a small cheeky win and go along with what they have asked… but in a way where you haven’t totally followed the spirit of their request. Malicious compliance.
You’ll feel a little bit of glee and they’ll be none the wiser.

3. Beware of the rectangles

What can you learn from your dog?

There’s a place for our rectangles, our phones, computers and TVs, but they can quickly take over our lives.
Sometimes we are reading about the latest celeb news, when, right in front of us,t here’s a dog who loves us wagging his tail, longing for a cheeky play.
Put down the rectangle, turn off the one on the wall. Engage with life in front of you.

4. Love your best friend

What can you learn from your dog?

Do you have someone who you can hang out with and it’s just easy to be with them? You know when you’ve found them because being with them is effortless.
You don’t have to be something you’re not or have hoovered the lounge, be looking your best or pretend to be on top of life. They become a part of you and mustn’t be taken for granted. They like you for you.
And you know what, you like them for them too.

5. Get on with it!

What can you learn from your dog?

Whether it’s preparing to go out, or sitting at a desk spinning a pen around in your fingers as you ponder beginning that big report, there is an argument to be made for just getting on with it.
Procrastination and wasting time before you do the thing you need to do is just pointless filler time.
Take a leaf out of your dog’s book: decide and then immediately do.

6. Enjoy your exercise

What can you learn from your dog?

We know our health is important and we know we should be exercising. But sometimes we get caught up in our exercise routines that we just have to do, and it’s not fun anymore.
Forget all the ‘shoulds’, do you feel like getting out there and moving? You don’t need the perfect wicking top, an app to tell you your lap time or loud tunes to pump you up and distract you.
Your ears might not flap in the breeze, but run through nature for the simple pleasure of felling your heart pumping faster and seeing what your body can do.

7. Find your happy place

What can you learn from your dog?

Do you have somewhere you just fit? A wonderfully happy place where you feel safe and protected?
Whether it’s being curled up on your window seat (book and hot chocolate optional but welcomed) at your parent’s house, or sitting on your favourite bar stool in your local, surrounded by familiar faces.
It’s nice to have a spot where you can relax and feel safe and cosy.

8. Get help

What can you learn from your dog?

Of course you could do everything yourself. But are you 100% excellent at everything you do? No. Is anyone?
So if you suck at dusting, get that cleaner in to help. If you can do your expenses at work but you just hate it, get a colleague to help in exchange for a week of making her tea.
It’s ok, even your dog with his self-assuredness is aware that it’s fine to ask for help. And the helper probably enjoys helping too.

9. Take comfort in routine

What can you learn from your dog?

When every day is the same we can feel stuck in a rut. Get up, eat the same breakfast, do to work, do the same tasks day in day out, come home, dinner, TV, bed.
Look to your dog. He loves his routine. He is so happy to have that same, comforting breakfast and know when that walk is happening. He makes the choice to love his routine.
Can you take comfort in the predicable?

10. Always be hopeful

What can you learn from your dog?

Hope is a beautiful thing. It’s about expecting a positive experience or outcome, maybe even in the face of it being unlikely. Disappointment can be painful, but take a leaf out of your dog’s book – he just gets over being mildly let down and moves on. If there isn’t a walk when he thought there would be, no big deal, but he hopes there will be next time.

You can see more illustrations and words of wisdom on Theresa’s Facebook page.

She also has a website where you can buy the book RRP £12.99
If you enjoyed reading about how Theresa was inspired by her dog, you might like to read about how Labrador Bertie inspired Katie to set up her dream pet business.

And if you’re interested in Mindfulness then you might like to read how my friend Helen at Relax Yaself To Health got on at her Wellness Retreat at Chilton Park Hotel.

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