When's the last time you embraced someone in a hug? How did you feel? For some who have a relationship on the mend, a hug is much more complicated than a physical act. Your mind might start immediately telling you stories about your relationship. For those who have people in their lives who light the proverbial spark in their life, the story might be simple: "That's nice. We should do this more."
Want an easy way to decrease stress and improve health? Reach out for a hug at least once a day. Hugging others more will help your mood improve, relax your body, and improve your connection outside of your head where all these stories live about who and what you are.
Research on hugging from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior shows so many good reasons to up your hug count today.
Upping your hug count means improving your mood almost immediately with a nice hit of oxytocin, one of the chemicals in your brain that is responsible for validating your "belonging-ness." When you engage in a hug or any other intentional physical touch, your brain receives the signal that you belong and are connected. Maybe it's time to reach out to your dog, cat, kid, partner, friend, or family member and embrace them. You'll be doing them a favor too.
The more the better! If you're feeling stressed, isolated, frustrated, or anxious, it could be that by sending your brain signals that "I'm not alone," you may be able to ward off negative thoughts by bombarding your brain with positivity.
It's less expensive than therapy! Yes, hugs are free, and that's the best part. You don't need to give anything to receive the message of acceptance. Just put your arms out to give and receive mutually.
Keep it on the weekends. The research shows that most people weren't as inclined to hug on Monday as they were towards the end of the week. This often has a lot to do with not having the brain space for self-compassion and care while we have many items on our to-do list. If you're below on your hug count today, up it over the weekend!
Get out of your head. When you are hugging, that hit of oxytocin floods your brain with positive sensations and reduces your likelihood to be anxious, stressed, and neurotic (another term for being too much in your head). When you connect yourself with someone else, your brain is reminded that there is a much bigger world out there than the stories that are going on inside your head.
Here's one to get you started! Take care and know the light in me sees and honors the light in you!