For a sneak peek of Garry McDaniel and Sharon Massen’s The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness: Seven Secrets for a Better Life from Man’s Best Friend (Lumina Media, February 28, 2017) check out the excerpt below!

the Dog's guide to your HappinessWhat We Can Learn About Play and Happiness

Some of our sweetest memories come from childhood play—board games, tree climbing, hide-and-seek, kick the can, playing house, street football, and the list goes on. It was through play that we learned to be responsible, and play is the foundation of a healthy, happy child.

Great things also happen when families play together. You have surely heard the saying “the family that plays together, stays together” (or something like that). Having fun together is a crucial characteristic of happy, healthy families. Our children certainly need to go to school and do their chores, and they need appropriate care, but what they need just as much is the opportunity to engage with their parents in an exciting game of tag, Monopoly, or kickball or to go with their parents to the swimming pool or on a nature walk. Families make memories and share inside jokes, work stress melts away, and bonds become stronger. For many families, good old-fashioned play is the glue that keeps it all together.

But, somewhere along the line, we either forgot how to play or simply found ourselves overwhelmed by the demands of busy lives. We became adults with huge responsibilities, such as families to provide for, house payments to make, career ladders to climb—it never stops. We are reluctant to play because we are afraid we will look silly. It is no wonder we are a stressed-out, worn-out population. And, for some reason, society views adult play as being irresponsible because there are a million more constructive things to accomplish.

Our canine friends are experts when it comes to play. They seem to naturally perceive that fun is important, and dogs don’t care how we look. What happens when you pick up your dog’s favorite toy? How does he react to the squeak he hears from that toy? His ears perk up, his eyes brighten, he is on full alert, and he is ready to play! A dog’s desire to play is a barometer of his health and well-being. It is no different for you and your family. Consider these correlations between child play and dog play.

Children play pretend to discover their roles in the world, to try out adult behaviors, and to hone social skills, which are the same reasons puppies play shortly after birth. Kids love to play ball games, run, chase, and jump, all the while strengthening their physical health. Puppies play to strengthen their bones and muscles even though they don’t realize it.

Playing with other children is very important for a child to learn about roles in life, how to get along with others, and social skills. Dogs who play with other dogs grow up healthier and better adjusted, too.

Southwest Airlines, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Google, LinkedIn, and the Pike Place Fish Market are just a few of the companies that have realized that play in the workplace pays off big. The idea that a joyful working space creates healthy benefits for employees is catching on. One of the best cases for ensuring greater fun on the job comes from the Great Place to Work Institute. At the companies ranked by the institute as being among the Top 100 Great Places to Work, employees responded overwhelmingly that they work in a fun environment. Amy Lyman, cofounder of the institute, says that it would be very unusual for a company to be on the list of the top 100 companies and not earn a high score for being a fun workplace. Research on these and other top companies makes it very clear that if people are having fun, they work harder, stay longer, and maintain their composure better during times of stress. Plus, employees who are having fun are also more innovative and creative; they solve problems and work more effectively with others.

Just take it from the dog—play is important for good mental, emotional, and physical health. We need to look closely at our canine friends to understand that play is vital to our well-being in all aspects of life. Society could benefit greatly if we could learn how to play again as adults. Having fun brings an endless list of benefits that will make us better people, parents, employers, employees, and family members. Just look at our four-legged furry friends, who never forget how to play and who enjoy life no matter how old they are.


Enjoying McDaniel and Massen’s The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness so far? Order a copy today!


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