How Changing Others Can Change You

I’ve made plenty of attempts to change my life in some way, in any way. Some changes catch on while others disappear as soon as they appear. The few times that I’ve really experienced effective change that has improved my life, it has come about in very unexpected ways.

This story involves my brother, who has been depressed for about the past decade. My brother was never very outgoing; he was often shy, kept to himself, and had few friends. During college, he really started becoming absorbed into video games. He lost focus of about all other things, and he still has this imbalance in his life, although now it’s perpetuated by his depression.

He’s had a dog for a few years now. At the time that he got the dog, he (and my parents) hoped it would serve as a kind of healthy outlet or a way to give him some responsibility or sense of purpose. But after a few years of ownership, the dog seemed to be showing symptoms of depression too.

My brother would play video games for hours in his room, while his dog would lie around, looking bored and lifeless. Later, the dog would lie under the bed for hours, refusing to come out for anything other than food. However, if my brother would put on shoes, the dog would become extremely excited. I soon realized this was because the dog was enticed by the prospect of a walk.

I asked my brother why he didn’t walk his dog. He said something about the idea that the dog would just get tired and lay under the bed more. I tried to encourage him to walk his dog, but I’m not one to force people into doing things. I just give people ideas and let them do with them what they will.

But one day, out of concern for both my brother and his dog, I just took the dog for a walk on my own, without telling anyone. I started to do this fairly regularly, about every other day when I would come home from work.

There’s something about walking outside that heightens your senses or even gives purpose. Dogs probably know this more than people do. After spending almost an entire day in front of a computer screen, feeling a slight breeze on your face and the ground under your feet just makes you feel alive.

After a couple weeks of walking, my brother’s dog became more energetic and appeared less anxious. More importantly, the dog starting becoming a lot more persistent in motivating my brother. I would give the dog its leash and just let it run into his room, begging for a walk. After a while, my brother started walking his dog himself.

The walks turned into jogs. Soon, we started taking jogs together, my brother, his dog, and I. At the moment, I’m at the best physical and mental shape I’ve ever been. And my brother appears to be doing a lot better as well.

And all of this came from me just trying to do something nice for his dog. I’m not saying that changing something in others will have a guaranteed positive effect on yourself. But I do believe that the way we feel about ourselves and life in general is largely a reflection of our relationships with people (or dogs) who are important to us. And working on improving these relationships seems as good as any step spent on improving only ourselves.

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