Why you feel better when you pet a dog

I recently found the following on a website devoted to the topic of “pet therapy”: “The profound satisfaction of living with a dog and the therapeutic qualities of their mere presence has been demonstrated in many stories of peoples’ experiences as well as clinical studies.

A number of well known studies have shown that petting a dog, in some cases, even being in the same room as a dog, has a calming effect on people, reducing blood pressure and heart rate.”

I’ve been living with a dog for six years now and no one has to convince me. I started feeling better the minute that she stepped into my apartment for the first time and that sense of well-being has only deepened with the passage of time.

But for many people (dog-lovers or not), the mind-body connection demonstrated in the kinds of studies that show that dogs (and other animals) are good for the health remains mysterious and hard to accept.

For those who are curious (not necessarily about the animal side of the equation, but about the mind-body connection in general), a good place to begin investigating is “The Mind Cure: A History of Mind-Body Medicine” by Anne Harrington.

Harrington is a Harvard University professor and respected scholar. She traces the mind-body connection through the centuries.

She doesn’t try to force higher conclusions about what she has observed, but she does make a strong case that this is an area ripe for further study.

To see the Monitor’s review of “The Cure Within,” click here.

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