Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Power of Hugs

Thanks to my sister, Heather,
for coming up with this post title.
 And my friend, Jody, for making
  this adorable hug wand for me!
I created my own support system by collecting ten hugs per day. Everywhere I go I give and ask for hugs. This was something a friend told me she did when she was going through cancer treatment. Jackie said it was a way to help her employees and customers at her store overcome the awkwardness of not knowing what to say.

I have been advocating the importance of parents hugging their children for years. Well-known family therapist, Virginia Satir, is quoted in, "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth."
So, I did not miss this opportunity for another teachable moment.  I thought the novelty would wear off but there is one student who has not forgotten to hug me. Everyday when the bell rings he walks over and gives me a hug before leaving. It doesn't matter where I'm standing in the room or if I'm sitting at my desk, he has never skipped giving me a hug.

A study in USA Today indicated that hugs will reduce the stress hormone Cortisol, making way for an output of two feel-good hormones in the brain, Serotonin and Dopamine.

10 Reasons We Need at Least 8 Hugs Each Day  by Marcus Julian Felicetti

1. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.

2. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.

3. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

4. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.

5. Hugging boosts self-esteem. From the time we're born our family's touch shows us that we're loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still embedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self love.

6. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.

7. Hugs balance out the nervous system. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system - parasympathetic.

8. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us how love flows both ways.

9. Hugs are so much like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs get you out of your circular thinking patterns and connect you with your heart and your feelings and your breath.

10. The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding. And, it's synergistic, which means the whole is more than the sum of its parts: 1 1 = 3 or more! This synergy is more likely to result in win-win outcomes.

See the 14 Types of Hugs by Dorothy Neddermeyer. 

Then go hug someone!