Renowned psychotherapist Virginia Satir, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
Whether those exact numbers have been scientifically proven remains to be seen, but a wealth of scientific evidence abounds on the importance of hugs and physical contact.
Why You Need To Practice More Hugging
1. STIMULATES OXYTOCIN. The neurotransmitter oxytocin acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. This hormone is responsible for you being here today. This gem is released during childbirth, making mothers forget about the excruciating pain they endured and making them want to still love and spend time with their children. New research from the University of California suggests that it has a similarly civilizing effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. And it dramatically increased the libido and sexual performance of test subjects. When you hug someone, oxytocin is released into your body by your pituitary gland, lowering both your heart rates and cortisol level. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
2. CULTIVATES PATIENCE. Connections are fostered when people take time to appreciate and acknowledge each other. A hug is the easiest way to show appreciation and acknowledgement of another. In this busy, hustle-bustle world we live in, you’re constantly rushing to the next task. By slowing down and taking a moment to offer sincere hugs throughout the day, you are benefiting yourself, others while cultivating more patience within yourself.
3. PREVENTS DISEASE. Affection also has a direct response on the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in cancer patients.
4. STIMULATES THYMUS GLAND. Hugs boost 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. COMMUNICATION WITHOUT SAYING A WORD. Almost 70% of communication is nonverbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal. Not only can they feel the love and care in your embrace, but they can actually be receptive enough to pay it forward to others based on your initiative alone.
6. SELF-ESTEEM. Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. The tactile sense is all-important in infants. A baby recognizes its parents initially by touch. From the moment of birth, 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 imbedded 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.
7. STIMULATES DOPAMINE. Everything you do involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Low dopamine levels play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors are also associated with sensation-seeking.
8. STIMULATES SEROTONIN. Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
9. PARASYMPATHETIC BALANCE.Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of one 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.
What can you do? Just surrender to the flow of life and let yourself be guided. Get out of your head and into your heart more of the time. Surrender to a place of trust even when life looks bleak. As in the Star Wars movies show, the light will always win!
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