With Social Distancing, showing compassion or hugging would be a long stretch. It may be awhile before we can hug again, but the need is still there. It’s Good for your Mental Health.
Did you know that hugging someone you care about not only makes you feel more connected to the other person; it also contributes to both your mental and physical health? Dr. Kathleen C. Light at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted in NIH News in Health, February 2007, studied oxytocin levels in loving couples as well as mothers and their infants. Although the research is preliminary, she notes that as love and affection are expressed, a hormone, oxytocin, mostly made in the area of the brain called the hypothalamus, is released into the bloodstream through Dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a crucial part in how we perceive pleasure. Released oxytocin has been found to bring about increased satisfaction and enjoyment in life. It makes us feel good and improves our mood. In addition, increased oxytocin tends to lower levels of stress hormones in the body as well as reduces blood pressure, increases pain tolerance, and may speed recovery from illness. In fact, there is good research indicating that without the release of oxytocin, there is a greater chance of serious depression and other mental illness!
We remain at social distance status. However, hugging can be a miracle medicine that relieves many physical and emotional problems people struggle with. Hugging is healthy. It relieves tension. It combats depression. It reduces stress. It improves blood circulation. It generates good will. It offers comfort and sustains self-esteem. It brings warm fuzzies to the soul. It also doesn’t require a license or registration. There are no insurance costs or co-pays, and it actually saves on medical bills. It is tax free and not dependent on the market. It does not threaten the environment, nor does it require batteries or electricity. Frequent use brings about increased benefits; the more you give, the more you receive. It is something that just keeps on giving. It can’t break down, although it is fully-refundable. It is life-time guaranteed. And, there are no unpleasant side effects, except during a world-renowned virus!
With all the technology out there, inventing a software program that allows for virtual hugs seems like a worthwhile consideration.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW
St. Williams Mental Health Center