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Bones or No Bones?

Aimee Bloom

Dogs bring many people a lot of joy – whether it’s their companionship, the extra motivation to go outside, or even their practical assistance – our furry friends often become part of the family. However, for dog owner Jonathan Graziano, his 13-year-old pug, Noodle, has become part of a much larger family of followers, online.

Every day, Graziano goes through the same morning routine. He wakes up his sleepy pug, Noodle, with warm affection and tickles before trying to stand him up. If Noodle stands, it’s declared a ‘bones’ day but if he flops back down in his bed, it’s a ‘no bones’ day. As Graziano says, Noodle’s determination to get up for a walk or go back to bed are used as a ‘forecast’ of sorts to tell us all what kind of day we’re going to have.

If it’s a ‘no bones’ day, rather than despairing, viewers are reminded to be kind to themselves, to engage in self-care, dress comfortably, spend time alone recharging or even splurge on something you think will bring you joy. Whereas if it’s a ‘bones’ day, we’re reminded to treat ourselves, step out and do something courageous, have fun and connect with loved ones.

After amassing 4.5 million followers and 52.1 million likes on TikTok over the last two months, it’s safe to say that there’s something about experiencing a ‘bones or no bones’ day that resonates with many of us.

Although Noodle’s posts have evolved into a light-hearted pseudo-horoscope for happiness, some of the underlying messages within these short clips ring true. So here are some of our own research-based tips, whether you’re having a ‘bones’ or ‘no bones’ day.

It’s a ‘Bones’ Day!

Life is good, things are heading in the right direction – how can we capitalise on this joy?

Savouring

This can be defined as: ‘The capacity to attend to, appreciate and enhance the positive experiences in one’s life.’ (Hefferon and Boniwell, 2011). As Brother David Steindl-Rast says, we often miss opportunities to be grateful because we don't press pause (TED, 2013). Savouring requires us to slow down, stretch out the experience, and pay close attention to our surroundings, feelings and experiences.

So, next time you’re having a ‘bones’ day, stop to smell those roses! Take note of what is happening, how this makes you feel and who is with you at the time. Take a mental snapshot of this moment and ‘savour’ it slowly so that you can enjoy the present to the fullest and reminisce about this moment in the future.

Kindness

Kindness can be seen as combining three components:

  1. everyday courteousness,
  2. responding with empathy, and
  3. proactive altruistic actions (Canter, Youngs & Yaneva, 2017).

From a psychological perspective, kindness can reduce the impact of stress, boost psychological flourishing, and reduce social anxiety and depression. Physiologically, kindness has been found to decrease pain, reduce stress and lower your blood pressure (Keltner & Haidt, 2003; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007; Cassidy & Shaver, 2008; Curry, et. al, 2018).

Kindness shared is joy multiplied. Research shows that carrying out acts of kindness not only improves the wellbeing of the initiator and the recipient, but it also has a positive impact on any bystanders who witness these kind acts.

So, if things are going well…or perhaps even if they’re not, plan out three good deeds a day for a week and take note of how this makes you feel. Alternatively, you might like to start regularly engaging in a loving kindness meditation and reflecting on the impact this has on your wellbeing.

As for those days when the pressures of life might be weighing us down…

It’s a ‘No Bones’ Day!

On a ‘no bones’ day, we might be lacking energy and motivation or be dealing with challenging circumstances. What does science have to say about the advice from Noodle the pug?

Permission to Be Human

At its heart, acknowledging a ‘no bones’ day is giving ourselves the permission to be human.

Although ‘negative’ emotions are a natural part of life, it is the interplay between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotions that gives our life balance. However, it can still be difficult to deal with negative emotions when they show up. Therefore, sometimes we respond to them with distraction, isolation, negative self-talk and resistance.

Research shows that if we try to ignore or stifle challenging emotions, we will only feel them more strongly. Conversely, we can experience less angst if we accept negative emotions and allow ourselves to experience them. Multiple studies have found that being able to accept our full range of human emotions, including negative emotions, correlates with higher levels of wellbeing and mental health (Harris, 2008; Brackett, et. al, 2016; Ford, Lam, John & Mauss, 2018).

Research also indicated there may be links between emotional suppression and depression and anxiety (Gross & Cassidy, 2019). Therefore, it’s important that we don’t deny or suppress difficult or challenging emotions, but rather that we are mindfully aware of them and modulate our responses in line with our core values.

Recognising and countering negative thinking patterns is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exercise that challenges unhelpful thinking. Negative thought patterns often happen automatically and against our best intentions. This tool teaches us to notice our negative thoughts and then use logic to dispute them.

Alternatively, Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches us to defuse from our thoughts. To recognise that our thoughts are simply that – thoughts…something our brain came up with – not facts. If we can learn to recognise our unhelpful thoughts, we can also detach from them.

So, give yourself the permission to be human, to acknowledge any challenging emotions at play and live in the present moment with curiosity and acceptance. Attend to what is happening without trying or wishing for change, ridding your mind of expectations and judgments. Determine not to suppress thoughts, feelings or sensations, but rather become an observer of your feelings as they emerge, and you experiment with openness.

Self-Compassion

Building on this concept is the idea of self-compassion. Self-compassion involves showing ourselves understanding and support when faced with our shortcomings, rather than being overly critical.

This sympathy is reflected in our inner dialogues – speaking words of kindness and unconditional acceptance over ourselves. Kristen Neff describes this as speaking to yourself as you would to a good friend. If your friend was suffering, in pain, had made a mistake, how would you speak to them? Those same words of understanding and warmth should also be reflected inward.

So often, as educators, we focus on the wellbeing of others; however, it’s so important to also show kindness and care to yourself. Engage in some mindfulness practices, a restorative yoga sequence or disconnect from the hectic pace of life and make the time to reconnect with nature by going for a walk.

Self-compassion also helps us to put our own suffering into perspective – for example, understanding that although our difficulties might initially feel like the end of the world, it’s likely there are others in more challenging situations. In short – it helps to recognise that, although times are tough, things could be worse.

In a time of uncertainty for many, joyous reunions for some and the grieving of lost moments for others, providing the language to talk about having a ‘no bones’ day and normalising this human experience are powerful ways to support our wellbeing.

Whether it’s a ‘bones’ or a ‘no bones’ day, there are many proactive positive practices with which we can engage to enhance our wellbeing. So, consider savouring the good, engaging in acts of kindness, giving yourself the permission to be human and showing some self-compassion… And embrace a sense of optimism, believing that, in the end, it will all work out for good. After all, every dog has its day.


Aimee Bloom
is the Product Manager at the Institute of Positive Education. She is responsible for crafting the Institute's Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum
(PEEC) from ELC – 12. An experienced teacher and writer since 2005, Aimee has taught in both primary and secondary contexts, and has written content for a variety of government and non-government agencies. She is passionate about supporting teachers and ensuring the wellbeing of children, both in our schools and around the globe.

References:

Canter, D., Youngs, D., & Yaneva, M. (2017). Towards a measure of kindness: An exploration of a neglected interpersonal trait. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 15–20.

Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press.

Curry, Rowland, et al. (2018). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 320-329.

Ford BQ, Lam P, John OP, Mauss IB. (2018) The psychological health benefits of accepting negative emotions and thoughts: Laboratory, diary, and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(6):1075-1092.

Gross, J. T., & Cassidy, J. (2019). Expressive suppression of negative emotions in children and adolescents: Theory, data, and a guide for future research. Developmental Psychology, 55(9), 1938–1950.

Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Boston, MA: Trumpeter.

Hefferon, K. & Boniwell, I. (2011). Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications. Open University Press.

Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17(2), 297–314.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. The Guilford Press.

Steindl-Rast, D. (2013). Want to be happy? Be Grateful. TED Talk


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