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Get Healthy with Hugs

The Need for Healing

“We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and twelve hugs a day for growth”. That’s according to Virginia Satir, an author and a social worker who was best known for her approach to family therapy and her work with family reconstruction. What is so great about hugs? Hugs are reassuring, loving, supportive, connecting and healthy. That’s right .¨ healthy. Science tells us that a good, solid heart-to-heart hug benefits us in many ways. For a start, hugs strengthen our immune system, release pain in the body and make us happy. We all need that. If we look at the way we are living today, everyone needs reassurance, assistance with stress reduction and relief from the physical, mental and emotional abuse our minds put us through with all those thoughts of inadequacy. The need for healing is clear.

Heart disease is the number one most preventable illness in the United States today. When we understand that our thoughts release chemicals that tend to find their way to specific organs in our body, we can connect the dots between any hard-heartedness we have and our heart problems. What does it mean to be hard-hearted? It’s when we lack sympathetic understanding for ourselves and others. Why are we unsympathetic and lacking in understanding? We have been trained to see life as if there is always something missing. This is lack. With lack comes fear. Fear can be equated with non-loving beliefs, thoughts and actions .¨ like being unsympathetic and not being understanding.

When we are fearful, we are less than compassionate and not loving with ourselves and others. This is where judgment, anger, hatred, non-acceptance, guilt, blame and resentment come from. When we spend a majority of our time focused on such thoughts, we become hard-hearted. Instead of connecting with others through the extension of compassion, acceptance and love, we often judge them for being who they are – whether that is how they are dressed, what they do or don’t do or who they love. We do the same to ourselves. All of this creates a disconnection from love .¨ and from our heart. These affairs of the heart are what contribute to so much heart disease today.

We don’t have to continue our patterns of fear and disconnection from others. We can heal our lives. We don’t have to be part of the statistics of heart disease. We don’t have to repeat patterns of thought that are attached to old training, especially when they don’t serve us, and being disconnected from others does not serve us. So, how do we change this and heal? With love which can be experienced in a myriad of ways .¨ one of those is by giving and receiving as many hugs as we can each day.


Communication & Connection

Hugs are an extremely positive form of communication between us. They express the values of love, gratitude and forgiveness. Not only are these values healing, they give us something we need to survive – physical contact. But, hugs also connect us. They bring us together and bond us. Hugs let us know we are special and valued. Most of all, hugs make us feel loved.

In the world of hugs, women tend to hug more readily than men and women hug each other more than men hug each other. Some people hug everyone they can and others feel uncomfortable and stiff when approached with a hug. Family training and cultural differences, or customs, have a lot to do with who hugs and who doesn’t. For instance, the Japanese prefer bowing to hugging. In Brazil, hugs are given freely as many people hug automatically when first meeting someone.

What becomes important and noticeable in all of this is the correlation between human contact and health and happiness. Science has shown that the more contact we have, the healthier we are. Areas of the world that benefit from this most include South America and the Middle East where physical contact with others is made on a regular basis, which is different than here in America.

There is also a correlation between aggression and violence in cultures that don’t make contact with each other regularly. Dr. Jennifer Schlegel, assistant professor of anthropology at Kutztown University, said some cultures, such as Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and South and Central American, are considered high-touch cultures, while American, northern European, Japanese and Australian cultures are considered low touch cultures. In low touch cultures, there is more aggression and violence. It’s not that Americans don’t hug, we just don’t hug with the frequency that South Americans do, for example.

There are differences in cultures, but there are also differences in the types of hugs. You don’t have to be psychic to feel the energy of hugs. There are romantic hugs, parent/child hugs, best friend hugs, condolence hugs, celebration hugs and more. No matter what kind of hug you are getting, you can be certain the benefits are far reaching. The fact is hugs are healing. But, hugs go much deeper than just physical contact.

Hugging each other and coming in contact with each other on a more regular basis are ways we can connect and communicate with each other. These connections relieve loneliness, sadness and depression. With hugs, we are engaged in giving and receiving which creates an energetic balance within that ignites healing. Hugs help us relate to others better, break down mental barriers we set up about them and release chemicals in the body that heal us. These connections are crucial to our health and happiness.


Get Healthy & Happy

We can improve our quality of life by being open to getting in contact with each on a more regular basis each day and hugs are a great way to do that. The benefits of hugs are evident as science shows us they heal illness, stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. This is because hugs release chemicals in the body, such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, which are healing and make us feel good. Hugs also:

  1. Reduce the risk of heart disease because high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors in heart disease. Studies show that hugs lower blood pressure, which for people with weak hearts or high blood pressure can be one of the greatest benefits of hugs.
  2. Makes you feel calmer, relieving stress. Hugs help us connect with our parasympathetic nervous system which is our relaxation system. Relaxation calms the nervous system, which automatically allows healing to occur.
  3. Strengthen your immune system since hugs set up an emotional charge that stimulates the thymus gland. The thymus gland regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, helping you stay healthy, thereby reducing the chance of disease taking hold.

The benefits of hugs don’t stop there. According to Dolores Krieger, R.N., Ph.D., professor of nursing at New York University and expert in the field of touch therapy, when one person hugs or touches another, it stimulates the level of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to tissues. Tissues that receive oxygen are infused with fresh energy that is used to rejuvenate the body. And there is other research in the field of hugging that has shown hugs reduce the chance of senility in people over the age of seventy, increases problem solving ability and improves overall physical well-being. Some studies have even shown that hugging reduces some symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Let’s do ourselves a favor and let go of preconceived notions we have created in our minds that keep us from getting close to others. Let’s dedicate more of our time to connecting with each other through hugs. Take down the walls that keep you from approaching people with open arms (that doesn’t mean ignore your intuition about your personal safety). Let go of old feuds with family members, especially during this time of year. Reconnect with as many people as you can through a solid, generous hug that provides healing for both.

Don’t limit your hugs just to other people. Hug pets and trees as much as you can. It has long been known that pets are great for healing through touching and hugging. We can do the same for each other and we can even hug ourselves. When we share love through hugs we connect with love. All connections with love provide us with balance. Balance heals and love is the most powerful force in the universe .¨ sounds like a great combination. So go out there and hug as much as you can each day. Let’s connect with each other and heal.

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