What is the best medicine for life? Do you laugh? Let me ask again. Do you truly laugh? Do you laugh so hard the milk comes out your nose, or you pee your pants? Are you a hugger? Are your hugs a quick fix, or do you embrace for a 20 second indulgence?
Hugs and laughter are the keys to health and happiness.
A few days ago one of my dear clients came into the studio and asked me, “Kamie, did you know that you have to hold a hug for 20 seconds to release oxytocin?” Oxytocin is also called the “love” or “happy” hormone. I thought to myself that I had learned and studied the effects of touch in my trainings on physical contact and behavior. I said to her, “Let’s give it a try.” So we embraced. After about 10 seconds, things began to get a little awkward, only because neither of us generally hug for a full 20 seconds. Then a bit of giggling began, and we laughed and laughed. After the conclusion of our awkward hug, I said, “Well if it doesn’t release oxytocin, it does release endorphins.” We both agreed with a giggle.
Research suggests that 20 second hugs inspire the feeling of meaningful connection with others and are also linked to reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease*. While it is fabulous news, it’s easier said than done. We are not talking about the hug that you give a relative that you haven’t seen in 20 years and really don’t remember how you are related in the first place. This is a hug that you would give to a person that you care about. This is the hold and embrace that you would give to a lover, without lip-locking and groping. The short “Hey, how are you doing hugs” are appropriate for people that are acquaintances and someone that you don’t have a connection with. But, if you want to share love or receive the deep benefits of oxytocin, there is a 20 second rule.
Here is a list of some of the benefits of hugging, snuggling and laughter, if you aren’t already convinced that it is worth a try:
- Hugs create a better mood, lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, increase oxytocin, releases endorphins, and boost immunity and self-esteem.
- Cuddling increases feelings of safety, security, trust, strength, healing, self-worth, belonging, happiness and appreciation.
- They decrease the feeling of loneliness, help us combat fear, affirm relationships, defuse tension and show appreciation.
I know right??!!! This is a no-brainer.
After reading articles and research on hugs, snuggles and laughter, I can see why my lover will no longer be a part of my life. He has been gone for a significant part of the last 2 years. And even though he came back “home,” it is no longer a home that is filled with these essential keys of life. I know that I need that from the people I have in my life and plan to spread that same meaningful connection with the people that are close to me—even if it causes a bit of awkward laughing!
Life is a journey that we can either choose to face and embrace the gifts and challenges or bottle them up and push them aside as irrelevant. It is all relevant. Whether it is now or in 20 years, when we do, it exposes the reality of our past experiences. I continue to move forward in my life and the flow of lessons that are keeping me from getting too comfortable. My personal practicing in svadhyaya (self-study), I am learning to find a new balance in an unstable and even awkward environment. It is surreal to comprehend that I will be continuing my life without the person that has brought me so much adventure, variety, stability and joy. He is no longer the same, and neither am I.
I am now beginning to move on with a new purpose and direction but with a different point of view. I am finding the true value of friends and the importance of my community. I am thankful that I have all of my eclectic friends to bring me back into balance, to make me laugh and to give me awkward hugs. Each of these people are a reflection of my personality, as they broaden my perspective of life and add adventure to my future.
So this holiday season if you want to spread joy that has no wrapping paper or price tag, hug, snuggle and laugh! Or if you just want to freak out your relatives and make your friends slightly uncomfortable, give them an awkward full-body hug. Remember the 20 second rule.
Mark your calendar, National Hugging Day is on Monday, January 21, 2012. This is a day dedicated to expressing your emotions in public and giving someone an awkward hug.
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” -Paul Zak, also known as “Dr. Love.”