I discovered the power of a hug when Anthony, my second son, had open heart surgery. It was the day after the surgery when the nurse asked me if I would like to hold Anthony for a few minutes. There was my little one with his chest tube and IV lines. I hugged him softly and cried. His warm little presence calmed my fears. It was a real healing moment, probably for us both. Before Anthony’s operation, I worried about every fight or fright. Now, they seemed irrelevant. I was changed deeply, and in a positive way.
We are busy – we Facebook our friends, we text our children we even email our spouses. For some of us hugging become a quick and infrequent interaction. It’s not surprising then that anxiety and depression have become the norm and obesity an epidemic. Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina found that when people hug their love one for 20 seconds the levels of oxytocin increase and cortisol decrease. Oxytocin is known as the love and bonding hormone – it triggers a caring response, it is crucial for healthy stress management, it drops your blood pressure and heart rate, and it also may slow brain cell degeneration. Cortisol, in the other hand, is the stress hormone; it is link to obesity and high blood sugar.
So my prescription this month will be hugs, long ones, lots of them.
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” -Virginia Satir