Why has “The New Normal” (a term that I have grown to dislike, by the way) made people fear other people? Have you ever been scared to hug your own child, spouse, parent or friend? Prior to March of this year, my answer would have been no, and it should still be no. My 13 year-old son has been spontaneously hugging me a lot lately, which, of course, I have loved. Teenagers aren’t always the most affectionate people, especially with their parents, and so it has somewhat caught me off-guard at times, but it also has made me think about the importance of physical connection. I realized that I temporarily allowed fear to rob my family and myself of one of the most important basic human needs. I don’t care what anyone says… that is not going to be my “New Normal!”
Hugging has many physical and emotional health benefits. Here are just 5 of the reasons why I’ll be hugging my loved ones today.
1. Reduces Stress and Depression- When you hug someone, it triggers a release of oxytocin, as well as the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. Studies have shown that adults who were frequently hugged during early childhood face fewer stress symptoms than others who were not. So, it’s no wonder why a hug can make us feel so good.
2. Improves Sleep Quality- Higher levels of oxytocin can make you feel more relaxed, comforted and safe. When we are more relaxed, we can fall asleep faster and have better sleep quality. Higher sleep quality helps keep your body healthier.
3. Boosts Immune System- When you’re stressed, your body works harder to fight off diseases. The less stressed you are, the better chance you have at having a stronger immune system. Since hugging reduces stress, it also helps boost your immune system.
4. Helps Relieve Pain- Hugging releases endorphins, which can relieve pain by blocking pain pathways and soothe aches by increasing circulation to soft tissues.
5. Reduces Conflict- When we are stressed, tension can grow and all of a sudden, you’re having personal conflicts with family members. Hugging can allow you to calm down, reduce your stress response and be able to clear up any conflicts you have with your loved ones. Have you ever heard the term “Hug it out?”
There is a lot of stress, fear and anxiety going on in the world today. Some adults are able to handle stress very well. Kids and teenagers may not be able to handle stress and anxiety as well as their parents, and have a harder time adequately expressing their feelings. My 20 year-old son has always wanted lots of hugs from Mommy, but I’ve noticed an increase in his needs as well. In March, I was terrified of hugging my own family. That will never happen again! We need physical contact in order to live. If you’re afraid of hugging your loved ones, ask yourself why. I am not going to stop hugging my family. That will never be “My New Normal!”