Written by Claudia Vermillion, Care Connections Specialist
"There’s a long life ahead of you and it’s going to be beautiful, as long as you keep loving and hugging each other" –Yoko Ono
You look like you could use a hug right now! That statement might be more apropos than ever, especially after the year we have had (still having).
Whether it’s a warm hug on a cold day, a hand squeeze when your nerves run high or a pat on the back for a job well done, a little human touch can go a long way in making us feel good. Touch can convey a whole range of emotions. It’s a sense that makes us feel connected physically and emotionally and boost our wellbeing.
Rev. Kevin Zaborney from Caro Michigan established National Hugging Day on 1986 and it takes place every January 21st to encourage the demonstration of emotion towards other human beings. Rev. Zaborney, also known as the Ambassador of Hugs, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Divinity degree from Boston University.
While the act of hugging may give us a feeling of happiness and security, there’s actually science behind the benefits of hugging for our well-being. When we hug someone, two different hormones are released. The first is oxytocin otherwise known as the “cuddle hormone” which fosters bonding, reduces stress and can lower blood pressure. The other is serotonin also known as the “happy chemical.” Having low levels of serotonin and a related happy hormone called dopamine can be associated with depression, anxiety and poor mental health.
Research has shown that hugging may:
Be critical for survival, in some cases
Ironically, because of the global pandemic hugging anyone outside of your immediate household would be downright dangerous and not recommended. Yet, self-care is more important than ever. Luckily there are ways other than physical touch to reach out and to stay connected to others. During this time of physical separation and social distancing, it is more important than ever to keep our social connections. If you don’t have access to regular hugs, there are other ways to get its feel good benefits such as
Pick up the telephone and call someone
Send an email or text message to a loved one
Use technology such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Messenger etc. to connect with family and friends
Pet a furry friend
Make the most of small gestures of connectedness with friends and teammates
Use massage therapy is a great way to unwind
Once it is safe to do so hug away, “A hug is like a boomerang-you get it back right away”-Bill Keane.