There's nothing like a good, hearty hug to make you feel warm, protected and loved, no matter who the giver is.
There's something very healing about hugs, especially when we are lonely, depressed or stressed. And even though most of us can attest to that fact, without proof from the scientific community, there have been research studies that do indeed prove that touch can substantially increase physical, emotional and spiritual well being.
Research indicates that hugging can actually lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, strengthen our immune system, increase oxytocin (particularly in women) which can reduce stress by decreasing levels of cortisol (the fight or flight hormone), can help decrease pain, increase hemoglobin levels, stave off potential senility in those over 70, and even save lives (see story below).
Oxytocin, according to a research study at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,
".... increases pain thresholds and stimulates various types of positive social interaction, and it promotes growth and healing. Oxytocin can be released by various types of non-noxious sensory stimulation, for example by touch and warmth."
One of the most moving examples of the healing power of touch is a **story that made the rounds via email about Kyrie and Brielle Jackson, preemie twins (pictured above) born in 1995. In the neonatal intensive care unit at The Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, Kyrie (the larger of the 2, at 2 pounds 3 ounces) began to thrive, while her sister Brielle was not doing so well, with breathing and heart rate troubles. Then one day Brielle started gasping for breath, turned bluish-gray, and started hiccoughing (an indication that her little body was overly stressed). With her heart rate dangerously high, the nurse ( Gayle Kasparian ) tried everything to stabilize the baby, to no avail. Remembering an unorthodox treatment, rarely used in the U.S. but common in Europe, Kasparian decided to bed Brielle with her sister. As soon as she was placed in Kyrie's incubator, Brielle snuggled against her sister and immediately stabilized. Kyrie then placed her arm around Brielle, and we have the picture above. Both children are doing well.
Hugging costs nothing and benefits both the receiver and the giver. So, go out and give someone a hug.
HOW TO- FOR COMPASSIONATE NOT PASSIONATE HUGGING:
1. Unless you know the person well, ask for permission before you give or receive a hug. "Can I give you a hug?" or "Do you need a hug?" or "I need a hug!" will suffice.
2. Approach the person with a smile and open arms.
3. Gently embrace for as long as you feel it can withstand. You will know when it's time.
It's wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you're blue.
A hug can say, "I love you so,"
Or, "Gee, I hate to see you go."
A hug is "Welcome back again!"
And "Great to see you!”Or “Where've you been?"
A hug can soothe a small child's pain
And bring a rainbow after rain.
The hug! There's just no doubt about it,
We scarcely could survive without it.
A hug delights and warms and charms,
It must be why God gave us arms...
Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers.
And chances are some favorite aunts
Love them more than potted plants.
Kittens crave them. Puppies love them.
Heads of state are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier.
And make the dullest day seem merrier.
No need to fret about the store of 'em.
The more you give, the more there are of 'em.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today!
**The story was published in Worchester Telegram & Gazette (November 18, 1995), Life Magazine (June 1996 - Page 18) and Reader's Digest (May 1996 Pages 155-156)