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I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago and listed some stress tools for others to try out. Strategies for de-stressing, this can look very different for each of us, for some it’s being sat in a café with friends chatting and for others its meditation in a quiet spot, some are universal and others are very individual. It’s good for everyone to find a strategy that works for them.

One section of my blog focused on hugs and the power this has as a de-stress tool. I enjoyed reading and researching the many health benefits that a hug can bring to our lives, both physical and mental health improvements. I will even go as far in saying I’m a converted hugger as I personally know it is good for me along with being good for people around me too. I had to take the Hug section out of my last blog due to Covid 19 as I wanted to support the current social distancing guidelines. When I knew I couldn’t promote hugging due to the current situation I felt really sad.

I thought so many people must be missing hugs; hugs with elderly relatives, missing hugs with children, grandchildren and hugs with friends. This made me really wonder how people are coping without this connection in their lives…? I can see people are showing how they care for each other in other ways like delivering food, clapping for key workers on our doorsteps and writing messages on driveways for friend’s birthdays. We have all adapted very quickly to this temporary way of living.

My question is, it isn’t the same as a hug though, or is it? 

Here is some of the science behind the importance of hugging…

Neurologists have shown us that touch, like a hug, can:

  1. Lower blood pressure,
  2. Support the immune system (by stimulating the thymus gland)
  3. Lower heart rate,
  4. Lower stress (lowers cortisol levels),
  5. Improve sleep (that cortisol again!),
  6. Stimulate the brain’s memory centres,
  7. Reduce pain,
  8. Prompt positive emotions (releasing oxytocin)
  9. Reduce anxiety, and make you happier overall. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

In addition to oxytocin, research shows that hugging someone releases dopamine in the brain, which is known as the pleasure hormone given that is often associated with prompting feelings of happiness. (See some of the links below that show the science in more depth)

Have you managed to substitute a hug with a creative hug? Such as a long distance hug or thumbs up from across the street with neighbours? Or writing messages in windows of support. Think about all those health benefits listed above… have we been missing all this from one small action…? One thing I do know is we have managed to carry on, adapt and push on during these unprecedented times. As hard as this may have been for so many of us we must remember that we have stuck together as a community and that is very important in times like these… You have built upon your resilience in ways I’m sure you didn’t think possible several weeks ago. You may have gained new coping skills, new ways of working and juggling life.  The way I see it there is always opportunity even during a crisis. Always a lesson at least. 

Whenever we step away from our everyday routines whether its forced due to a pandemic or for a holiday we gain insight, new ways of being and we grow. I hope we don’t forget the clapping on our doorsteps because for me that was nearest to a hug I can compare with. (I am in danger of sounding cheesy but that’s ok) To me it felt like a warm feeling, togetherness, appreciation, shared happiness and some sadness, for that small time, less stress just clapping, all that in one. So what have you done? 

Have you found a substitute for a hug? Do you think there is a substitute? Please let us know so that we can share with others!

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Take care and stay safe.

Jamie-lee

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