I Need a Hug!
Is it just me, or do all of us need hugs? I confess that since my dear soul mate has been living within the throes of dementia, the loving hugs we shared daily have long since ceased. But my need for hugs certainly hasn’t ceased. They always made me feel good and I miss ’em. I suppose I’m just a natural born ‘hugger’.
But please don’t feel sorry for me; all is not lost, not by any stretch of the imagination. Even though my dear sweetheart is no longer with me mentally or emotionally, I still get lots of hugs—just not from her. Our wonderful daughter fills in that hole in my heart quite regularly. As a loving father, I get plenty of hugs from that compassionate little lady. I am also blessed to have a number of other surrogate ‘huggers’. Since I have Tuesdays ‘off’, I get to spend my time running errands, casually buying groceries, checking on my rental property, and having a leisurely lunch—home cooking, no less, that I don’t have prepare. YeeHaa! And as a creature of habit I patronize the same little ‘hole in the wall’ diner every Tuesday. They treat me like family. This past Tuesday all three waitresses gathered around me as I walked in the door and showered me with wonderful hugs. They must have thought it was my birthday or something. That little gesture made me feel warm all over! Everybody wants to be loved and treated special.
As I was contemplating that welcome little series of events, I began thinking of all the emotions a simple hug can stir up within us. A hug can be a fantastic way of non verbally communicating with another person. Hugging boosts self-esteem. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. Hugs are good therapy. And, it’s not just all in our minds. Sure enough, hugging therapy has proven to be a powerful way of healing. Research shows that hugging (and also laughter) is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues. It even has a positive influence on inflammation and wound healing. Remember when we (as little kids) would skin our knee and our moms would hug us, kiss the wound and make it well. It always seemed to work! Hugging cures lots of ills.
According to researchers at Ohio State University, simple hugs become increasingly more important with age. As we grow older, the more fragile we become physically, so hugging and physical touch play a big role in maintaining our good health. I can attest to that since I am in the midst of that ‘growing older’ phenomenon.. Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have averse health effects. When we’re hugged, we feel less lonely. In both giving and receiving hugs with someone, we instantly feel closer to that person and decrease our feelings of loneliness. Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch give us positive feelings and significantly reduce our worry of mortality
Hugs may not just simply warm our hearts, but according to Better Health Journal, hugs can also be good medicine for our hearts: One study found, for instance, that women had lower blood pressure following a brief episode of warm contact with their partners. In another experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a heart rate of 10 beats/minute compared to the 5 beats/minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment. More hugs = lower blood pressure.
Hmm, inquiring minds want to know how can a simple hug cause all these wonderful things to take place in our bodies? In a word, it’s “Oxytocin!” So you might ask, ”What in the world is Oxytocin? Well, Oxytocin is one of those wonderful ‘happy chemicals’ produced by our brain. It is often referred to as the “love hormone” and/or the “trust hormone” and/or “cuddle hormone”. And, get this! Hugging increases the levels of Oxytocin in our bodies. Oxytocin also increases Serotonin production, which is another one of those wonderful, pleasure causing hormones that reduce pain and sadness, while increasing our good moods and improving our overall feelings of happiness. It also decreases risk of heart problems, extends life and can even help us lose weight. And simple hugs release these pleasure hormone into our bodies. Wow!
Studies have even shown that our propensity for hugs shouldn’t necessarily be limited to the human species. No Siree! For those of us who have pets, it also helps to hug and play with them. Just a few minutes of petting our dogs or cats can promote the release of our body’s “happiness” hormones, Those studies also found that hugging, even if it’s just inanimate objects like teddy bears, has its benefits. A significant number of people sleep more peacefully when hugging their pillows.
Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles. and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases. It has been found to reduce the cravings of drug and alcohol addiction. I speculate that students feel less devastated by academic problems when well-hugged, well-assured, and well-bonded.
Don’t get me wrong: It can be annoying to be touched by a stranger, or even by a friend, at the wrong time. And there will always be people who choose not to touch or be touched. In Ecclesiastes 3:5 we read, “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”. As adults, we can live without hugs, but of course we do seem to be happier with them.
So, the bottom line seems to be, ‘Reach out and hug someone, It will make both of us happier”.
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