Faking Joy

Yesterday was not a good day.

Work was frustrating. A call to Isaac turned into a brief pissing match about who was busier and more burned out. (Don’t worry; we resolved it quickly and no one was the winner!) It snowed all day and the drive home from work was slippery and painstakingly slow. To top it all off, while Beatrix and I were enjoying a good game of fetch in the backyard she suddenly ran to the corner of the fence that she can fling herself over and hopped into the neighbors yard. As she and I walked back around to our house I contemplated sitting down on the sidewalk, in the middle of a snowstorm and next to a busy road, and sobbing; I had been having a good time and relaxing while playing with Bea, but when she jumped the fence all the emotions that go with owning her/a fence jumper came flying into my face. Compound those emotions with everything else that happened yesterday, it was just not a good day at all.

When I arrived home I pouted for a bit, and then decided to start reading my beloved Real Simple magazine that had arrived in the mail. In the “Life Lessons” section I stopped flipping the pages; if I believed in fate I would have thought this a sign. The topic was “5 ways to keep one bad thing from ruining your day”. I think I had at least six things that ruined my day, but hey, I’ll take whatever help I can get! Gretchen Rubin’s (author of The Happiness Project) “Fake Joy” suggestion hit me smack in the forehead.

“We think that we act because of how we feel. But we also feel because of how we act. So use this knowledge to change your mood. Jump up and down; getting both feet of the ground makes you feel childlike and energetic. Or go for a walk. Just this morning I got an unnerving e-mail from someone and felt lousy about it. So I headed out for a walk in Central Park with a friend. So many things that tend to make a person happy are wrapped up in one little thing – a walk. It really works! When I got home, I wasn’t irritated anymore. I realized, yeah, I got my perspective back.”

Her words reminded me of mat work with the dogs. As you’re teaching them to relax on the mat their first “relaxation” might be faked because they’re just interested in the treat. Over time, however, they stop faking and start relaxing – after enough faking it their response becomes real. I guess that’s why sometimes people say “smile!” if you’re looking grumpy, and it makes sense to me.

With the exception of Beatrix jumping the fence, none of what happened yesterday will be a problem for me in the long-term. The 20 or so minutes we spent playing in the backyard before Queen Bea excused herself were great. It wasn’t until we were walking back that I even realized how stressed and grumpy I had been all day!

I’ve tucked Gretchen Rubin’s words away for future reference. The next time I will do something different – go take a walk, jump up and down with a grin on my face, whatever it takes – to disengage my negative mindset.

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About Miranda

A flailing attempt at keeping it all together while doing All The Things.
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6 Responses to Faking Joy

  1. This is a wonderful post. You’re so right about the mat work…the behavior will eventually beget the emotion. That’s the whole idea behind counter-conditioning. Ruby has started sometimes doing her “relax” trick while we’re doing the Relaxation Protocol. I’m not fooled that she wouldn’t immediately jump up if the cat ran by or the doorbell rang, but she’s at least trying to look the part.

    Lasya was a fence-jumper when I first got her (she could clear a 6 foot privacy fence) but I was not the worrier I am today and it seemed like no big deal! I would just go and fetch her from the neighbors. Ah, to be young again.

  2. Miranda says:

    Thank you! I really need to work on building up Bea’s mat work thresholds/triggers. It’s hard when her biggest trigger is a neighbors dog. It makes working with her (especially in the winter) hard since I have no clue when that dog will be outside.

    I can remember not being such a worrier, too. I suppose knowing more about dog behavior begets worrying about possible outcomes from that behavior?

    • I often find myself longing for a yard for Ruby, but neighboring dogs would be a whole new challenge for us. She has already figured out nearby dog’s walking schedules and sits at attention listening for the opportunity to bark at them out the window. I think what I really want is about 40 acres like my folks had…

  3. Miranda says:

    I often think how nice it would be to have acreage and a (really) tall fence… But I also know that if I can help her learn to control her emotions in the backyard and when we’re on walks and encounter dogs behind fences her life will be more enjoyable all around. It’s just taking a LONG time to get there!

  4. Jenny says:

    I can sympathise with this so much, and reading about other people and their reactive dogs has provided much comfort to me in recent weeks! I’d say that once or twice a week I get back from a walk with Vulpe and have a good old cry. If I’ve had a stressful day, this will definitely contribute! I think she’s passed on some of her anxiety to me too. I think it’s important to be kind to yourself if you ever have moments like these! Much like training Vulpe, I think it’s sometimes a case of very slow progress, but progress nonetheless 🙂

    • Miranda says:

      It is slow progress, but it’s progress! I know that if I am stressed my dogs will feel it. My stress level actually contributed to a fight between Beatrix and Dio. :/ Talk about making me feel awful!

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