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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 October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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