A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away. ~Bil Keane, “Family Circus”
I love my sister-in-law Ronna. The first time I met her, she gave me the most incredible hug. It wasn’t obligatory, wimpy or semi-commital. It was a full-on bear hug, complete with belly contact and a stout, strong, enveloping embrace. She is my inspiration for all the hugs I give and receive.
Science backs how powerful hugging can be on our physical, mental and emotional health (read more). When we take time to meet, greet and give each other heart-felt hugs:
- We get a health boost. Hugs stimulate the production of oxytocin (love’s hormone), which is shown to boost our immune system and our ability to fight illness.
- We de-stress. The effects of a hug are immediate. A study conducted at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto showed that participants who received a hug had a significant reduction in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.A whopping 90% of diseases are said to be linked to high levels of stress in the body.
- We relax and let go. When someone hugs us, pressure receptors in our skin immediately send signals to the vagus nerve. As a result of the vagus nerve stimulation, our heart rate and blood pressure decrease and we feel relaxed and content.
- We get happy. Hugs stimulate the production of dopamine (the pleasure hormone), which helps us to relieve stress, tension and feel more open and trusting.
- We love ourselves more. According to a study conducted at the University College London, physical contact, like that from a hug, is essential to develop and maintain a healthy perception of our body. Hugs also help us to feel more emotionally connected to our friends and family.
Every time I see my single friends (particularly those without kids), I make it a point to give them at least two hugs during our visit. Some of us go through an entire day without any hugs?! That’s no good. I challenge you this week to try and get eight hugs a day in (Ronna-style). Pets, neighbors, co-workers, friends, yoga teachers all count in addition to friends and family.
Wanting to feel more connected to your partner? Dr. Stan Tatkin, psychotherapist/researcher/couples expert at UCLA and author of Wired for Love found that when people feel safe with one another, a twenty-second, full-body hug is just enough to release oxytocin in both men and women and allow them to “synch up” on a neurobiological level. His research has shown this kind of hugging can have a profound effect on couples attachment and communication, especially when done upon greeting one another at the end of the day (and when your partner’s love language is touch). Try it.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice hugging this month during the holiday season. Just make sure to “read” others before you launch into hugging everyone at your holiday office party.
Virginia Satir, American psychologist and adolescent expert says, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Is there someone in your life who could use more hugs?
YOUR HOMEWORK: How can you get in 8 hugs a day this week? (Remember, pets, children and hugging the same person multiple times all count!) How do you feel when you nourish yourself in this way? If you’re not a hugger, could you become one?
SEEKING A NEW WAY OF BEING IN 2018? Join me and like-minded women for an upcoming retreat (I’ll be leading A New Way of Being Jan. 26-28 at Kripalu), reach out to explore having me create a custom work-life balance workshop for your team or employees in 2018 or download one of my life balance telecourses (ideal if you like self-paced learning and support from the comfort of your own home, car or office). View all the ways we serve here.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/speaker/author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find their center through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum. She is the author of three books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 15 year-old son. More on her background here.
~Did this post speak to you? Please support your friends and family and share it!~