Well, we started off the New Year with a tip about that liquid elixir of life… and though some may argue that coffee competes for that title, I do mean water!
Along with the water that we drink, another essential for wellbeing is… touch. Touch is such a simple act – we all know how to do it – yet it’s so incredibly beneficial on many levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It’s so vital to our wellbeing, that we should include in our “diet” everyday!
One of the most immediate things that touch does is lower our stress and anxiety levels. Probably some of us could use that, after the holidays! Receiving a hug from a caring friend or partner, or a massage, or simply holding hands has been shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, which is why when you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to become sick. Supporting the relaxation response can help improve the functioning of infection-fighting white blood cells. A caring touch also helps our muscles to relax, our heart rate to go down, and our blood pressure to decrease.
Another hormone that is released during the act of hugging is oxytocin. It’s known as the “bonding hormone.” Mothers (and fathers) produce it after the birth of their baby, to facilitate the lifelong bond that is established. According to a study out of the University of North Carolina, women who get more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates. And the more full body contact there is, the more oxytocin is released. (Hint, hint.)
After you finish reading this, take a moment to share a hug with someone you care about. Or, with your animal companion; they’re excellent surrogate snugglers! Stroking a pet has been shown to be very effective at lowering anxiety and stress levels.
So, just like the proverbial apple a day… a hug a day can help keep the doctor away, too!