5 Healthy Habits to Copy From Your Dog

Fido does more than drool and shed—your dog can actually be a good health role model.

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If you want to have optimal health and a happier life, some of your dog's habits are worth stealing. We're not talking about the shedding or the drooling—your pup can keep those—but we are talking about his or her love for the outdoors and sunny disposition. Here are five things your dog loves that are worth trying.

[See: 13 Fool-Proof Ways to Get Happier]

Getting daily exercise. Your dog adores getting outside for a nice long stroll, and so should you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) every week for adults ages 18 to 64, and for adults 65-plus with no limiting health conditions. "If you can walk two miles in 30 minutes, that's a pretty good pace," says Raul Seballos, vice chair of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. The best way to mimic your pup? Bring her with you when you walk. That's because dog walkers are 34 percent more likely to meet federal benchmarks for (human) physical activity, a recent study found. If you'd rather swim, bike, or hit the gym, go for it, Seballos adds. Just do something you enjoy.

Having meals reliably prepared and served. When you feed your dog, you serve him using his special bowl—the same amount, every day. When you dine, you should control your own portions, too. "The last thing you want to do is put big serving dishes out," says Wayne Andersen, a Maryland-based physician and author of Dr. A's Habits for Health. That's because you'll likely keep eating (and overeating) from the dishes on the table just because they're there. A better solution? "Be aware of what you're eating and plan in advance," Andersen says. Follow the federal guidelines for portion sizes—half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, for instance—and store serving dishes away from the table after you've made your plate. Then be mindful. "Ninety-five percent of your taste satisfaction comes in the first three bites," says Andersen. If you still crave a second helping, wait 20 minutes. It can take about that long for your brain to register that you're full.

[See: Stop Emotional Eating With These 5 Tips]

Being forgiving. Your furry friend gets over it when you yell or accidentally step on her tail, so follow her example the next time someone annoys you. "People who forgive tend to be less angry, less stressed, less anxious, and tend to have lower blood pressure," than those who hold grudges, says Andersen. Being forgiving can also lower your risk for alcohol and substance abuse, according to the Mayo Clinic. So shake it off the next time your spouse is super annoying, or when your nosy coworker asks way too many questions. Your dog would—and usually does.

Getting restful sleep. When he's not eating or trying to snuggle, your pup is perfectly happy to snooze on the floor, lightly snoring. And he's onto something. Your pet sleeps when he's tired, and so should you. The average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep per day, but about most Americans say they don't get enough shut-eye during the week, reports the National Sleep Foundation. Something's got to give—and maybe it should be your obsession with late-night TV. "Sleep is not a luxury," says Andersen. "It's an important requirement of our bodies." So act like your dog, and rest up.

[See: 13 Reasons Not to Skimp on Sleep]

Bonding with loved ones. Your dog is crazy about being around other people, dogs, and even cats. (Well, maybe not cats.) In turn, you should hang out with supportive friends, call your cousins, or relax with your partner. You don't have to follow your loved ones around like Fido does with you, but maintaining close social relationships can help you manage stress and even live longer, according to a 2010 review of research published in the journal PLoS Medicine. "Socialization is really important for us as humans," says Andersen. "All of us want to be cared for [and] want to be loved." And, hey, if you want to hang out with your dog one-on-one, that's fine, too. Pets support your mental health, helping you feel less lonely and less fearful, and they increase your self-esteem, suggests recent research published by the American Psychological Association. That makes your dear dog not only a good health role model, but also a good friend.

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