Wellness Wednesday: Dogs do speak, but only to those who listen!

Stay Well at Home

Kent Sport’s Strength and Conditioning Instructor, Chris Payne reflects on the importance of exercise for our mental as well as physical wellbeing.

On 27 March BBC news reported that dogs could be trained to sense virus, and specialist sniffer dogs known as bio-detection dogs were being tested to see if they can detect COVID_19 on humans. Our canine friends have already been trained to detect malaria, Parkinson’s and cancer and we know how effective police dogs and guide dogs can be. The charity Medical Detection Dogs informs us that each disease has its own unique odour and that a dog’s incredible sense of smell can even detect certain odours with a level of accuracy beyond the highest test standards. I think you will agree this demonstrates the incredible bond that humans and dogs share. In fact Marilyn Monroe once said:

“Dogs never bite me, only humans”

However, there is one dog that can bite if we allow it. It is called a BLACK DOG (otherwise known as depression) and whilst we are staying at home and isolating there appears to be a concern about how people will handle their thoughts and feelings during this time. In fact only this week a friend of mine has told me they are struggling with a visit from their BLACK DOG.

Winston Churchill made the metaphor of a BLACK DOG famous saying it used to sit on his lap and taunt him, and it would follow him around staying close to his feet. Yet, during the Second World War the fate of the nation would have been resting on his shoulders and having a black dog may have helped him make decisions that ultimately led Great Britain through the war. So for those of us dealing with our thoughts and feelings during this time, how can we stop our BLACK DOG from biting us………….

Firstly, there is a fantastic book (and a YouTube video) by Mathew Johnstone called “I had a black dog” that in 48 pages of wit and humour provides an insight into depression that some books fail to accomplish in over 300 pages. Second, what do mental health issues and our four legged friends have in common? Answer, they both like exercise. However, we must consider the type of exercise we choose to combat mental stress, anxiety and depression.

We know that exercise increases our feel good endorphins and over a period of weeks and months can give us a sense of achievement, build confidence, and improve our physical health (all important during this time). Yet, it is my opinion that when dealing with our BLACK DOGS exercise should be holistic, meaningful and well planned. Higher intensity exercise is certainly beneficial to our health and fitness, but it will place the body’s recovery levels into a higher state of stress. This could prevent you from de-stressing because you are asking your body to recover from a physical stress (the high intensity training) and cope with mental stress (the black dog) at the same time.

So, during this difficult and unprecedented situation take time to consider what exercise will give you a sense of achievement and wellbeing that you can include as part of a daily, weekly routine. As an example today the family and I are walking groceries and essential items around to the Grandparents house instead of driving. Upon returning home I followed this up with 30 mins Yoga and later in the day will perform some light resistance exercises. Whatever exercise and activities you choose to help maintain a healthy mind and body please remember at the very least you can always slip a lead on that BLACK DOG and take it for a good walk – it will probably thank you for it.

Stay well!

Wellness Wednesday is part of Kent Sport’s  #KentSportStayWellAtHome series of daily blogs and vlogs to keep you positive during these unusual times. To be sure not to miss our updates, Like us on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter @UniKentSports – we hope you enjoy and join in!

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