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Thursday, February 12, 2009

"The Rescuing Hug"- The Healing Power of Touch

There's nothing like a good, hearty hug to make you feel warm, protected and loved, no matter who the giver is.

There's something very healing about hugs, especially when we are lonely, depressed or stressed. And even though most of us can attest to that fact, without proof from the scientific community, there have been research studies that do indeed prove that touch can substantially increase physical, emotional and spiritual well being.

Research indicates that hugging can actually lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, strengthen our immune system, increase oxytocin (particularly in women) which can reduce stress by decreasing levels of cortisol (the fight or flight hormone), can help decrease pain, increase hemoglobin levels, stave off potential senility in those over 70, and even save lives (see story below).

Oxytocin, according to a research study at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,

".... increases pain thresholds and stimulates various types of positive
social interaction, and it promotes growth and healing. Oxytocin can be released by various types of non-noxious sensory stimulation, for example by touch and warmth."

One of the most moving examples of the healing power of touch is a **story that made the rounds via email about Kyrie and Brielle Jackson, preemie twins (pictured above) born in 1995. In the neonatal intensive care unit at The Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, Kyrie (the larger of the 2, at 2 pounds 3 ounces) began to thrive, while her sister Brielle was not doing so well, with breathing and heart rate troubles. Then one day Brielle started gasping for breath, turned bluish-gray, and started hiccoughing (an indication that her little body was overly stressed). With her heart rate dangerously high, the nurse ( Gayle Kasparian ) tried everything to stabilize the baby, to no avail. Remembering an unorthodox treatment, rarely used in the U.S. but common in Europe, Kasparian decided to bed Brielle with her sister. As soon as she was placed in Kyrie's incubator, Brielle snuggled against her sister and immediately stabilized. Kyrie then placed her arm around Brielle, and we have the picture above. Both children are doing well.

Hugging costs nothing and benefits both the receiver and the giver. So, go out and give someone a hug.


1. Unless you know the person well, ask for permission before you give or receive a hug. "Can I give you a hug?" or "Do you need a hug?" or "I need a hug!" will suffice.

2. Approach the person with a smile and open arms.

3. Gently embrace for as long as you feel it can withstand. You will know when it's time.


It's wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you're blue.
A hug can say, "I love you so,"
Or, "Gee, I hate to see you go."

A hug is "Welcome back again!"
And "Great to see you!”Or “Where've you been?"
A hug can soothe a small child's pain
And bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug! There's just no doubt about it,
We scarcely could survive without it.
A hug delights and warms and charms,
It must be why God gave us arms...

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers.
And chances are some favorite aunts
Love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them. Puppies love them.
Heads of state are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier.
And make the dullest day seem merrier.

No need to fret about the store of 'em.
The more you give, the more there are of 'em.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today!

Author Unknown

Strong Relationship and Hugging Long-term Partner Keeps Blood Pressure Down

Warm emotional and physical contact such as talking and hugs between long-term partners has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, especially in women, according to a study published in the July/August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, the journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.[33] Researchers at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), led by Karen Grewen, PhD, report that the benefits of positive partner relationships may be related to higher release of oxytocin, a hormone that has been linked to social behaviors, including maternal and monogamous pair-bonding.

In their study, Dr. Grewen and colleagues measured plasma oxytocin, norepinephrine, cortisol, and blood pressure responses in 38 heterosexual couples aged 20-49 years who had been living together for at least 1 year. Each couple spent 10 minutes resting separately and then 10 minutes seated together talking about close time spent together and watching a "romantic" video (called the "warm contact period"), followed by a 20-second hug, after which they were separated for a 10-minute rest period alone.

Higher partner support, assessed by self-report, was related to lower SBP at the end of warm contact in both men and women, although the effect was greater in women. Both men and women who reported high partner support had higher levels of plasma oxytocin, but levels were linked to lower blood pressure at baseline and to lower levels of norepinephrine throughout the study only in women. Dr. Grewen and colleagues believe that the potentially cardioprotective effects of oxytocin on sympathetic activity and blood pressure may be greater for women.

How Hugs are Proven to Help Your Health: Have You Been Hugged Today?

Hugs certainly feel good, both on the giving and receiving end, and it turns out their effects are more than skin deep. A study by University of North Carolina researchers found that hugs increase the "bonding" hormone oxytocin and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Hugs are good for your heart, they lower blood pressure, and reduce stress, so make it a point to hug someone today!

In fact, when couples hugged for 20 seconds, their levels of oxytocin, released during childbirth and breastfeeding, increased. Those in loving relationships had the highest increases.

Meanwhile, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased in women, as did their blood pressure. Said lead researcher and psychologist Dr. Karen Grewen, "Greater partner support is linked to higher oxytocin levels for both men and women. However, the importance of oxytocin and its potentially cardioprotective effects may be greater for women."

Hugging for Your Heart

"Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health. This study has reinforced research findings that support from a partner, in this case a hug from a loved one, can have beneficial effects on heart health," said Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation.

Indeed, a previous study, also led by Grewen, found that hugging and handholding reduces the effects of stress. Two groups of couples were asked to talk about an angry event, but one group had previously held hands and hugged, while the others sat alone. It was found that:

* Blood pressure increased significantly more among the no-contact group as compared to the huggers.

* Heart rate among those without contact increased 10 beats a minute, compared to five beats a minute for huggers.

What's more, Grewen suggests that warm contact such as hugs and hand-holding before the start of a rough day "could carry over and protect you throughout the day."

Benefits of Touch Start Early

A hearty hug in the morning may help your loved one ward off stress all day.

Humans are clearly social animals, as evidenced by countless studies showing that those who have friends are healthier, as are people who are married.

We need social contact, and that includes touch, even beyond a couple's capacity. Take, for example, the fact that babies benefit from skin-to-skin contact with their mother with better physical development and positive bonding.

A telling example was a study of Korean infants in an orphanage. Those who received an extra 15 minutes of a female voice, massage and eye-to-eye contact, five days a week for four weeks, gained more weight and had greater increases in body length and head circumferences after the four weeks and at 6 months of age than children without the extra stimulation.

Therapeutic touch has also been shown to reduce stress and pain among adults, and reduces symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as restlessness, pacing, vocalization, searching and tapping.

Time to Get, and Give, More Hugs

"U.S. couples aren't very touchy feely in public," says Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School. This is a shame as touch also releases two feel-good brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.

Yet, according to Field's studies of U.S. and Parisian cafes, French couples spend three times more time touching than American couples.

So what are we waiting for? Grab your partner, friend or family member and give them a hug today. And if you're really feeling bold, check out the first link below and treat your significant other to a special treat tonight.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How hugs can aid women's hearts

Women's heart health may benefit more from hugs than men's, a study suggests.

A team from the University of North Carolina studied the effects of hugging on both partners in 38 couples.

The study showed hugs increased levels of oxytocin, a "bonding" hormone, and reduced blood pressure - which cuts the risk of heart disease.

But, writing in the Psychosomatic Medicine, the researchers said women recorded greater reductions in blood pressure than men after their hugs.

During the study, the men and women were taken to separate rooms to test their blood pressure and levels of oxytocin, which is released during childbirth and breastfeeding, and cortisol, a stress hormone.

The couples were then reunited and asked to sit together and talk about a time when they were particularly happy.

They then watched five minutes of a romantic film before being left to talk to each other for a further 10 minutes.

Next, the couples were asked to hug for 20 seconds.


Both men and women were seen to have higher levels of oxytocin after the hug.

People in loving relationships were found to have higher levels of the hormone than others.

But the study also found all women had reduced levels of cortisol following the hug, as well as reporting the blood pressure benefits.

The researchers, led by psychologist Dr Karen Grewen, wrote in Psychosomatic Medicine: "Greater partner support is linked to higher oxytocin levels for both men and women.

"However, the importance of oxytocin and its potentially cardioprotective effects may be greater for women."

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, said: "Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health.

"This study has reinforced research findings that support from a partner, in this case a hug from a loved one, can have beneficial effects on heart health."

She added: "British Heart Foundation researchers have already demonstrated links between a positive emotional state, such as happiness, and low levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

"This growing body of research only goes to highlight how important social support is for everyone, not just those in a relationship."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monopoly Men

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The distant murmuring of a secret goverment

Friday, September 19, 2008

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