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7 Ways Hugging Makes You Healthier and Happier

7 Ways Hugging Makes You Healthier and Happier

For decades we’ve known that babies won’t thrive without physical holding and affection. There is little that will comfort or reassure small children as well as a hug from a loved one. Yet, it is not uncommon for parents to stop hugging their kids as they reach puberty.

For many adults, the amount of physical nurturing they receive declines as they age, even as medical studies confirm that the health benefits of physical touch extend throughout our lives.

A heart to heart hug can have significant benefits on our health and happiness in the following ways:

Enhances Relationships

A heart warming hug increases the feeling of safety, security, trust and belonging. These are the foundations of all healthy relationships. Research has shown that relationships in which hugging and touching are present tend to be stronger and longer lasting.

Gulledge et. al. in Psychology Today say, “Touch is crucial in creating and strengthening romantic relationships. Tactile physical affection is highly correlated with overall relationship and partner satisfaction. Moreover, conflict resolution is easier with more physical affection—conflicts are resolved more easily with increased amounts of hugging, cuddling/holding, and kissing on the lips.”

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Reduces Anxiety, Stress and Blood Pressure 

When we hug or kiss a loved one, our oxytocin levels rev up. This powerful hormone has the ability to alleviate social anxiety and produce feelings of trust. It also has the peripheral ability to reduce stress.

Oxytocin has been observed to reduce cortisol in the body and lower blood pressure. Gallace and Spence, state that women who report having received more hugs from their partners in the past have been shown to have significantly lower blood pressure levels than those women who do not have much history of being hugged by their partners. Accordingly, affectionate physical behavior can lower reactions to stressful life events.

Promotes Happiness

Serotonin is often called the ‘Happiness hormone’.

Physical touch can increase serotonin levels. Serotonin helps regulate dopamine. Dopamine can lead to aggressive and sometimes violent behavior. Whereas, elevated serotonin levels create periods of happiness.

Health Keepers Magazine states that everyone needs hugs and touching to maintain serotonin levels, so hug friends, loved ones and even your pet, often.

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Releases Tension

When you are in a deep heart to heart hug with someone you love, it is very difficult not to relax. When you relax, you lessen the tension in your body.

Hsin-Yung Chen et al. have found that deep touch pressure (DTP), which is often provided by holding, stroking, hugging, swaddling, and squeezing, can calm people who are anxious and thereby improve their coping behavior.

Increases Feelings of Self-Worth

From the instant of our birth tactile sensations are imbedded in our nervous system. Then during our childhood the loving hugs and cuddles that we receive develop into our sense of self-worth which we carry into adulthood at a cellular level. That is why when we are feeling down, unsure of ourself or confused a hug can often transform those feelings  back to one of self-worth and a positive attitude.

Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. reports, “more touch, more oxytocin, more trust.”

Restores Balance in the Nervous System

Hugging provides manual stimulation of the parasympathetic system.

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A hug can restore the balance in our nervous system.

Many people live in a constant state of high alert and high anxiety which puts the sympathetic nervous system on alert. When this happens the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a calm and relaxed state is under active.

By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system in a hug, we can restore balance. With the balance restored, we naturally slow down our pace of life and feel calmer.

Touching Communicates Your Emotions Effectively

In a recent article published in Psychology Today titled “The Power of Touch,” DePauw University psychologist Matthew Hertenstein demonstrated that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone.

Scientists used to believe touching was simply a means of enhancing messages signalled through speech or body language, “but,” Hertenstein says, “it seems instead that touch is a much more nuanced, sophisticated, and precise way to communicate emotion.”

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———

The actual number of hugs a human needs varies according to which statistics one pursues. Some say, “several times a day”; others suggest “five hugs daily”. An article in “The Telegraph” suggests that four hugs a day are apparently “the secret to a happy marriage”.

The frequently quoted psychotherapist, Virginia Satir, 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.”

Have you had your quota of hugs today?

 

Featured photo credit: Alex & Ashley/Caitlin Regan via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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