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The Benefits of Hugging

Today is National Hug Day!

Humans are social creatures and as a result hugging offers multiple mental and physical benefits to people, as now science is beginning to discover. For instance, hugging can boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, boost self esteem and improve mental health. Hugging has also been shown to improve cardiac health, lower blood pressure and increase relaxation levels in both participants.

Hugging is also an important part of relationships. Partners who hug on a regular basis are more bonded and trust each other more than those who don’t frequently touch. There is also a link between partners who frequently hug and the longevity of their marriages. Couples who frequently touch each other tend to have longer and happier marriages than those who don’t.

But what about the kids? A 20 second hug can help your child grow smarter, happier and healthier! Here's how!

1. Hugs Create Smarter Kids

Children need sensory stimulation to develop normally. Touch, and specifically hugging, is one of the most important forms of sensory stimulation needed to grow a healthy brain!

Researchers have identified when infants received an additional 20 min of tactile stimulation (touch) per day for 10 weeks, they subsequently scored higher on developmental assessments.

2. Hugs Help Kids Grow

When children are deprived of physical contact, their bodies stop growing despite normal intake of nutrients. These children suffer from failure-to-thrive. This growth deficiency can be improved when nurturing touches and hugs are provided.

Hugging triggers the release of oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. This feel-good hormone has many important effects on our bodies. One of them is growth stimulation.

3. Hugs Can Stop Temper Tantrums!

Hugs are good for a child's emotional health. Nothing calms a tantrum-throwing toddler faster than a loving hug from Mom or Dad!

Many parents worry that hugging a tantrum-throwing toddler rewards that type of behavior. It doesn't. When a toddler is having a meltdown or a child is throwing an emotional tantrum, they are not being stubborn. They are simply losing control of their emotion. They cannot self-regulate.

Emotion regulation works like a car. In a car, the gas pedal and the brake work separately to control the speed. In our nervous system, the arousal branch and the calming branch are the two systems that work separately to control our emotion. 

When a child cries intensely, the arousal branch (gas pedal) is overactive while the calming branch (the brake) is under-active. Imagine driving while pressing the gas pedal all the way and not applying the brake. You have a runaway car. 

Children in tantrum is exactly like a runaway car. They are extremely aroused while the calming mechanism is disengaged.

If your child disobeys you and drives a runaway car, do you let it crash because you don’t want to reward him with attention? Of course not, right?! You stop the car to rescue him first and then lecture later.

Hugging a child in tantrum is the same. You are helping him avoid an emotional crash.

Hugging triggers the release of feel-good hormone, oxytocin, that can lower the level of stress hormone and counter it's anxiety effects. So hugging is releasing the emotional gas pedal while stepping on the brake.

Save first. Teach later.

Today is a great day to start practicing these behaviors on a regular basis! Happy National Hug Day 2019!



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