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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 July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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