Your Military Family’s pets are some of your best friends, greatest playmates, and dearest company, but they also have the potential to be insightful teachers. National Pet Week (first Sunday-Saturday in May each year) is an opportune time to pay a little extra attention to your furry friend — not just in terms of extra belly rubs, but also in collecting the innate, mindful wisdom they have to offer, too.

1. Live in the Moment

Have you ever noticed how pets tend to throw themselves into everything they do, whether it’s exuberantly greeting you at the door, visually stalking the birds flitting about outside, or taking their sweet time sniffing that one patch of grass along their walk? Pets take one singular moment at a time and let their attention rest there. For them, all that exists in a moment is you or the birds or that patch of grass. Living in the moment like this is a form of mindfulness. We, on the other hand, often try to do everything at once. Next time you notice yourself trying to juggle multiple tasks, pick just one activity and let yourself experience everything about it.

2. Focus on Self Care

It’s hard not to be a little jealous of our pets when they get to lounge around at home all day and do as they please. They curl up on the couch when they’re tired, go to their bowl when they’re hungry, and stretch in the sun when they feel sore. Sure, with work, errands, and chores, we might not have as much leisure time as our pets, but we can still be more mindful of our self-care needs. If you find yourself chugging coffee every day to stay awake, for instance, try going to bed earlier or simply incorporating more short breaks into your day. If you know you always get hungry mid-afternoon but don’t get home for dinner until 6 p.m., start packing healthy snacks with you to avoid hunger-induced headaches or mad moods.

3. Forgive and Forget

Pets don’t hold grudges. Sure, your dog might whine if his dinner’s running late, but you’re sure to be best friends again once he’s fed. Pets don’t dwell on the past because of their natural inclination to live in the moment. Once a situation is resolved, any offense it might have caused is forgotten. This is a good reminder for us to let go of the past and to be the ones who set a positive tone in our relationships by choosing to forgive.

4. Remain Curious

Pets have a tendency to stick their noses into everything. They knock over packages brought home from the store, thoughtfully observe house guests, and collect the scents offered by new locations. Mindfulness encourages us to approach our body and mood with the same gentle curiosity by taking time to experience them and explore what messages they may have for us. Doing this can help us recognize how our body and mind interact, something that we don’t often take the time to do.

5. Awareness of Others

Pets have a knack for knowing what’s going on with the people around them. When we’re happy, they prance around our feet to celebrate with us. When we’re tired, they’ll curl up on our laps and encourage us to get some sleep. When we’re sad, they let us know it’s going to be okay with sloppy kisses. Mindfulness is not just about looking inward, but being more receptive to those around us. It’s about treating others with kindness and respect and offering comfort, joy, and patience when needed.

When it comes to living mindfully, pets just get it right. Having them in our lives offers a daily reminder to foster more consciousness and to fully connect — mind and body — to the world and people around us.

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