Undeniably the cutest way to practice mindfulness.
Pets do so much for us. They're our playmate, cuddle buddy and best friend, but they also help us practice mindfulness by being a constant reminder to live in the moment. My cat, Honey, doesn't obsess over the future or ruminate on the past. When she accidentally rolls off the bed in the midst of a major relaxation stretch, she looks adorably embarrassed for an instant before moving on.
If you watch your dog get belly scratches or cat pounce on a feather toy, it's obvious that nothing is going on in their minds beside the present moment. They're not participating in negative self-talk or running through their to-do list for the day. They're fully focused on what's currently going on.
Animals are constantly in, what neuroscientists call, direct mode, which means they're paying attention to their senses rather than narrative mode, where the focus is on planning, daydreaming and ruminating. Although there's nothing wrong with the narrative mode, which can actually be very helpful at times, you don't want to limit yourself to only experiencing the world through that network.
When you're in direct mode, several more areas of your brain are activated. You're not thinking about the past, future, yourself or other people, instead you're taking in the experience from your senses. The more you can practice being in direct mode, the less imprisoned you are by your past and expectations with more opportunities to enjoy each moment.
Not only are our pets excellent role models of this but they also provide so many perfect opportunities, that you wouldn't want to waste caught up in thought, to practice mindfulness. Next time you're petting your cat, pay attention to how soft her fur feels, listen to her purr and notice how sweet and happy she looks. When you play fetch with your dog, notice the sound he makes bounding through the grass and how proud and joyful he looks returning the ball to you. In these simple moments, our fur babies give us the happiest experiences to be fully present in while being the cutest reminders to be mindful.
If you missed the first two posts in the mindfulness series, check them out here and here.