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Are Hugs the New Steps?



Sharing a 10-second embrace with someone dear provides more than just emotional warmth. Here's a rundown of five health advantages based on recent studies:


In a world riddled with concerns about global warming, health crises, and political turmoil, a recent announcement by the U.S. Surgeon General is alarming: America is in the throes of a loneliness epidemic. To comprehend the magnitude, consider this: the detrimental effects of social isolation are comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes daily.


It's disheartening, to say the least.


However, there's a glimmer of hope: a straightforward remedy that's cost-free, pleasurable, and beneficial. Embracing it? Hugs. Whether it's a bear hug, group hug, side hug, or even a casual bro hug, any consensual act of wrapping arms around another can boost both physical and mental well-being.


Experts Kory Floyd, PhD, from the University of Arizona, and Anna Lena Düren, PhD, from Bonn, Germany, shed light on the matter:


1. **Hugs Decrease Blood Pressure**

When stress peaks and a reassuring hug arrives, the palpable relaxation isn't a placebo. Floyd notes that studies show hugs reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones, including cortisol. For instance, a 20-second hug was found to diminish stress in individuals tasked with public speaking. The rationale? Floyd believes the evolutionary origins from maternal caregiving, wherein a mother's hug offered protection and warmth to her infant. Now, hugs offer a shield from emotional storms.


2. **Hugs Enhance Immune Responses**

Believe it. A Carnegie Mellon study found a correlation between the frequency of hugs and lowered infection risks. The premise? Though not entirely clear, Floyd's research suggests reduced inflammation and, consequently, a more robust immune response due to decreased stress.


3. **Being the Hug-giver is Equally Rewarding**

While hugs uplift our spirits, it's fascinating that the giver also reaps benefits. A quirky experiment showcased that the act of giving a hug activated reward centers in the brain, promoting the idea that consolation is a two-way street.


4. **Duration Over Configuration in Hugs**

Düren's research investigated the ideal hug. While arm positioning seemed inconsequential, hug duration played a vital role. Intriguingly, participants favored a 10-second embrace, debunking the notion that longer hugs are awkward. So, perhaps it's time to graduate from the standard three-second hug and experience the extended version – always ensuring mutual comfort.


It's essential to note: mutual comfort is paramount. Düren and Floyd emphasize seeking cues and ensuring the hug isn't uncomfortable for either party. The principle is simple: when a hug feels more like a constraint than a comfort, it's lost its essence.


5. **Solo Hugs or Pet Hugs are Beneficial Too**

While understanding the value of hugs is great, not everyone has immediate access. For those, Floyd recommends strategically seeking touch opportunities, whether via contact sports, professional massages, or simply greeting friends with a warm embrace. And let's not forget our furry companions, offering unlimited cuddles. Even self-embracing has its merits, as Floyd says the brain sees no distinction between self-touch and touching others.


In essence, in a world often feeling distant, the power of a simple hug, be it with others or oneself, cannot be overstated.


 


Hugs, as simple as they seem, are a goldmine of psychological and physiological benefits. Let's delve deeper into the world of science and psychology to understand the myriad benefits of hugs:


1. **Neurochemical Boost**:

- **Oxytocin**: Often termed the "love hormone" or "bonding hormone," oxytocin gets released when people touch or hug. This hormone promotes feelings of trust, bonding, and connection in relationships.

- **Endorphins**: Hugging can also stimulate the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers. They help soothe physical and emotional pain.


2. **Reduction of Fear**: A study published in the journal "Psychological Science" demonstrated that touch, even from inanimate objects, can assuage existential fears. Individuals with low self-esteem and heightened concerns about mortality and existence found comfort in touch.


3. **Social Bonding & Attachment**: From an evolutionary perspective, touch and hugs played a role in social bonding. This is evident even in primates, where grooming and touch are critical for social cohesion. For humans, hugs can symbolize trust, safety, and assurance in social relationships.


4. **Therapeutic Implications**: Hugging is often incorporated into therapies, especially for conditions like autism or in therapies involving trauma. It can help create a safe environment and reinforce trust between the therapist and the client.


5. **Sleep and Hugs**: The soothing effect of oxytocin, which is increased through hugging, can also aid in better sleep. This is why parents are often advised to give newborns skin-to-skin contact, mimicking a hug's warmth, to help them sleep.


6. **Post-conflict Healing**: Research has shown that physical touch, especially hugs, after a disagreement or conflict, can speed up reconciliation and reduce adverse emotional reactions.


7. **Heart Health**: Beyond the already mentioned benefits regarding blood pressure, there is also evidence that hugs, due to the release of oxytocin, can support overall heart health by improving heart rate variability, a marker often used to determine cardiac health and stress levels.


8. **Hugs and Childhood Development**: Regular touch and hugs in early childhood stages can be critical for emotional and cognitive development. It can even influence how genes express themselves, as observed in Romanian orphanages, where children deprived of touch and hugs showed both emotional and cognitive delays.


9. **Mental Health**: Chronic touch deprivation, or 'skin hunger', can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. On the other hand, regular human touch and hugs can act as a buffer against stress and mental health challenges.


10. **Cultural Considerations**: It's also worth noting that the cultural background plays a role in how people perceive and benefit from hugs. In cultures where touch is more common, hugs might be more readily accepted and beneficial. In contrast, in cultures where personal space is highly valued, unsolicited hugs might induce stress.


In conclusion, while hugs offer an array of benefits, it's essential always to consider the comfort of both parties involved. Mutual respect and understanding are crucial. As science continues to unveil the depths of our neural and hormonal systems, one thing remains clear: a hug is a potent tool for health, connection, and overall well-being.


 

Recipe For Happiness



All you need is this ONE recipe - everything else will fall into place.


PREP TIME 1 minute

TOTAL TIME 1 minute


INGREDIENTS

A generous pinch of patience

A dash of kindness


A spoonful of laughter adjust to your needs


A heap of love



Garnish with Hope


INSTRUCTIONS

1. Mix all the ingredients.


2. Garnish with hope.


3. Serve as often as you like.


NOTES



1. This recipe can be easily doubled or even tripled


2. Use this recipe as and when required. Share with others, it multiplies.



Be Kind, Do Fearless

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