By Tatiana Garrett
New beginnings are very exciting. Now is the time of year to start with a clean slate and resolve to improve your world—starting with yourself. We all know people that have resolved to do things like lose weight or quit smoking only to find themselves still gripped with the same vices months later. To help ensure that you see your goals through to attainment, make them personal, specific, and attainable.
As you sit down to create your new year’s resolutions, use the points below as inspiration to build from, and try to incorporate self-improvement into the new year that will increase your empathy and compassion for all living beings. Be the best “you” that you can possibly be, and experience the unique joy that comes from helping others (humans and animals). Show you care and work to leave the world better than you found it. Here’s how:
Learn: Make a plan to stimulate your mind in the new year by learning something new. Topics abound for animal lovers—you could learn about local plants and create a garden for wildlife, volunteer for homeless pets or animals in need, or even take up a hobby like birding. If you have pets at home, engage them in your learning—grow your understanding of animal psychology by teaching them some new behaviors through positive reinforcement. I had a lot of fun teaching my kitties to do back flips while chasing their feather lures.
Spend Your Time Wisely: Everyone should occasionally sit down and track the amount of hours they spend sleeping, working, commuting, exercising, and enjoying themselves with friends and family. A healthy balance is very important for good well being. Include your furry family members in the equation—time that you spend with pets is good for your health (studies prove it lowers blood pressure and triglyceride levels and pet parents visit the doctor less frequently than others), and lots of socialization is necessary for happy healthy fur-babies.
Appreciate Family: Our family members can be our greatest sources of strength, knowledge, and support; but emotions run deep, and they can also be a source of stress for many people. You can’t control the behavior of others, but you can control your own actions and reactions. Resolve to put petty differences aside and spend quality time with family members. Pets are members of the family too, of course, and are always there to give and receive unconditional love. There are many animals in need of a loving forever home. Consider adding to your family by adopting a new furry friend!
Take Care of Yourself: Anyone who has heard the safety speech on a flight knows that you have to be breathing in order to help others. The same lesson applies to life in general—we must take care of ourselves so that we are able to take care of others. This category is so broad, but everyone has something they can do to improve their own health: Create a regular workout plan, cut preservatives and pesticides from your diet, decrease the use of harsh chemicals in your home, or take up mediation and reflection. Having a pet is a great way to increase your opportunity for daily exercise, since walk and playtime will be musts. What you put into your body makes a huge difference for your personal health. From daily meat-eaters to strict vegans, there is a huge continuum—think about where you stand and plot out the path to where you want to be.
Play More: All work and no play is just plain boring. Animals (including humans) learn through play, so get out there and develop some skills you might not even know are there. Everyone is likely to have a different idea of what constitutes play, so think about what is fun and exciting to you—and then do it! Play outdoors whenever possible. Time in nature gives you access to fresh air and it will raise your awareness of wild animals and environments. Personally, I find beautiful natural landscapes to be humbling and inspirational.
Get Creative: When was the last time you fed your creative spirit? Visit an art museum, take up nature photography, or paint a portrait of your pet. Options for creative outlets are limited only by your imagination. Exercise the right side of your brain in 2013.
Give: Altruism, empathy, compassion, and love—all are just as nice to give as to receive. To make your personal goals attainable, remember to make them specific. If you love animals, plan to give time or resources to a local shelter. Think about children you know that could benefit from your mentorship, or someone who may be elderly or ill and unable to do things around the house. Pets have great therapeutic powers, and yours can be certified to help you help others. Everyone has the power to give love and assistance, and doing so is truly a great reward.
Take the ideas on this list as mere starter points for inspiration. Ask yourself what matters most to you. Set time to reevaluate your progress at specific points throughout the year. Remember that you are only human, even though you plan for things set-backs may happen, so allow yourself flexibility in adjusting plans as needed and always treat yourself with compassion. If you think you may struggle with accountability on a goal, tell someone close to you that will help by offering you encouragement.
Wishing you, your pets, and all the animals in nature a wonderful 2013! Share your pet-related resolutions below.
Tatiana Garrett grew up with Borzoi, a rescued Standard Poodle, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. She has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but people are truly at the heart of her work. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society and hosts “Chicago Tails“ on Watch312.com.