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Play Like Puppies

March 23rd is National Puppy Day.  But really, shouldn’t every day be National Puppy Day?  Our four-legged friends are certainly worthy of daily recognition and praise, don’t you think?  From the fluffiness, cuteness and fun of puppies, canines grow to become loyal, comforting and lifetime companions to us as dogs while teaching us many of life’s important lessons along the way.

When I think of puppies, I remember that part of the reason I really wanted a puppy when I made the decision to bring Lacey (my fluffy, white Bichon Frise, “co-founder” of The Ivey, who passed in May 2018) into my life was to bring “play” back to my life.  It was early 2004 and I was contemplating leaving my 25-year career in banking.  It was the perfect time to play! And I knew that puppies, could re-teach the art of play to me, which could free up my mind to creatively plan the next adventure for my life after corporate America.  (You now know how that turned out!)  

A puppy represents an innocence and childlike approach to the world which is why it seems like puppies want to play all the time.  One of the reasons perhaps is the puppy recognizes that his/her master is totally focused on him/her at that time and it feels so good to be the center of attention. This focused time is also called mindfulness and is a critically important tenet of keeping brains healthy and sharp.

Play (and mindfulness) for adults is critical in our stressful go-go-go lives. Play has been shown to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, and stimulate creativity. And it can even help to keep us young and feeling energetic. Studies show that play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex. Play has also been shown to trigger the secretion of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein substance essential for the growth of brain cells. I’ve learned that higher levels of the protein are associated with improved cognitive functioning, mental health, and short- and long-term memory. Don’t we all want that!

Although National Puppy Day will quickly come and go on March 23, I am mindful of some of the important life lessons that our fur babies teach us about life every day:  live in the moment, don’t hold grudges, romp and play every day, run to greet the ones you love, drink lots of water, and so many more…and we might just keep our brains sharp while we’re at it!

So, go outside and play! And rub a puppy behind the ears, then see how you feel!

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