For Self-Care, Pretend You’re a Dog

Self-care is simple, but that can be hard to understand with a deluge of advice—among writers whose business is to churn out more new, marketable advice, and self-lovers whose discontentment leaves them always searching for new advice.

I’m a fan of simple models of understanding, and think all true understanding is done with these, not with complex lists and exciting visceral ideas. Which is why I think your self-care should be summed up by comparing yourself to a dog.

For a dog to be happy, he needs

  • Socialization,
  • Support,
  • A healthy diet,
  • Exercise,
  • Rest,
  • Grooming,

and so on.

This idea is best not memorized as a list, but rather understood with the general intuition of what a dog needs. Ironically, I think many of us can more easily conjure that than explain what’s needed for ourselves to be happy. And I think you’ll realize, many of the reasons a dog needs certain things are the same as why we need them.

For example, a dog with poor socialization will become awkward and emotionally immature: the same for us. One without support lacks security and self-esteem. Without regular exercise, a dog cannot vent his energy, and along with a poor diet, may become out of shape and susceptible to health conditions. Rest is for … basic functioning (I’m no sleep expert), and grooming keeps the dog, as well as everyone around him, happy.

This gives a new sense to the phrase, ‘self-ownership.’

As in, put a leash on yourself and literally be your own owner. Alternatively, the same thinking will work by replacing the dog with a child in the analogy. When your child has too few things to do, you can sign him up for a sport or an activity, for example. The same for yourself.

In a way, I think all self-care should be like this: self-parenting or self-ownership (with the previous definition). No more complicated life hacks. View yourself as the mammal you are … at least for basic needs.