(Stillness in the Storm Editor) Human beings are social creatures. We come into this world needing a tremendous amount of physical contact and love from our caregivers, and studies have shown a lack of connection can be devastating for a developing child. As we get older, society makes us think we need less love and contact. But arguably, as experience is gained, more reassurance and unconditional love are needed. When adulthood sets in, the amount of emotional release afforded to the average person through physical touch is almost entirely gone. And the vast majority of our interactions with each other and ourselves are harsh, judgmental, and unloving. As a result, negative emotional energy builds up in the body, affecting physical health and emotional wellbeing, leading to a host of diseases. But thankfully, a lifetime’s worth of emotional hardship can be released by developing practices that give us what we needed when we came into this world: unselfish love via physical and emotional forms of expression.
Author John Naisbitt suggests that the more electronically connected we become the greater our need to receive physical contact. This seems to imply that there is something very important and essential to the embrace of physical contact and love, which is often overlooked in our modern world. Perhaps this is why the millennial generation, one that has been more connected via electronics, seems to be obsessed with cats, which can be one of the most physically loving pet types. Hugging is one way to alleviate this need, especially if it is done with a conscious intention of some kind.
Hug Therapy: High-touch Healing in a High-tech World
by Curt Pesmen, January 2016
Something seems amiss: Millions of us now click into our social lives each day, count 100, 300, even 500+ friends in our networks, and yet somehow move through the entire day without having experienced one human-to-human, warm-bodied hug.
Indeed, when Megatrends author John Naisbitt ushered in the notion of “high tech, high touch” in the 1980s, it seemed to many to be more of a hip catchphrase than reality in the making. But as he famously foresaw, the more wired we become as a species, the more we tend to desire—crave, even—the feel of warm, comforting, inviting, and sensual interaction.
That’s one reason why, from coast to coast, snuggle, cuddle, and hug therapy sessions and practices have sprung up over the past few years. You can find The Snuggery in Penfield, New York, near Rochester (“Take a Break, Have a Snuggle”), where Jacqueline Samuel charges clients $60 per hour for healing, clothed, therapeutic, nonsexual touch. On the West Coast, at San Francisco’s Cuddle Therapy, Travis Sigley, 29, a former male strip-club dancer, offers comforting, sensual, but decidedly nonsexual spooning and clothed hugging with clients in “a safe, loving, trusted environment” at the rate of $75 per hour.
The Indian spiritual leader known as Amma the hugging saint has embraced millions of Hindu and other followers on her world tours to promote compassion and selfless love. In the U.S., her meditative and hug-filled tours have been covered by the likes of Rolling Stone and PBS.
In Boulder, Colorado, Chris DeCicco, a former software sales exec, recently opened a snuggle company called Be the Love You Are. (There are six other hugging partners who offer services alongside DeCicco.) It offers clothed, nonsexual hugging sessions for $60 per hour. Snuggle parties are held at a yoga center on weekend evenings, in which participants engage in this new form of social-somatic networking. Pajamas (or yoga pants) are welcome.
In one-on-one sessions, “we do some breathing together, maybe some eye gazing; and maybe set an intention,” DeCicco said. “We’ll have clients say the intention out loud: what specifically they’d like to happen in the session. As in: ‘I’d like to feel more trust; I’d like to heal my wounds from my divorce.’ A simple, powerful statement of their goal.”
DeCicco, a kundalini yoga practitioner and tantra student, is also affiliated with the ManKind Project, a men’s mentoring nonprofit. Following a divorce, he began to work on personal and intimacy issues, and says only then did he realize how much therapeutic touch had both healed and changed him.
Hugs for Health
Hugging has been shown to boost helpful hormones and reduce the level of harmful hormonal effects, at least in controlled environments. In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine and in related work, psychologist Karen Grewen, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, has found that:
- The heart rate among subjects who had no contact with each other increased a full 10 beats per minute in a study after couples were asked to discuss anger-inducing topics. Couples who discussed the same topics but hugged for 20 seconds showed a rise of just five beats per minute.
- Levels of the hormone oxytocin (the “pleasure” hormone) increased markedly among the couples who hugged.
- Levels of the so-called stress hormone, cortisol, which can have damaging physical effects, dropped more markedly among women than men in measured hugging sessions.
- The blood pressure of subjects who didn’t hug each other rose significantly more in the experiment than that of those who hugged on cue.
As for benefits that may accrue to those who try hugging therapy, all snickers and winks aside, Sigley (the Cuddle Therapy hugger) has seen—and felt—profound change among certain clients who have brought complicated pasts with them into their sessions. Guided meditations usually signal the start of his hugging sessions. Following an initial intake plus a face-to-face, seated ice-breaking period, Sigley shares that on repeated occasions he has helped wounded, weeping clients (ranging in age from 19 to 60) recapture a sense of safety and warmth following instances of abuse or rape that may have occurred long ago.
“There have been times after sessions I’ve walked away with a sense of disbelief,” Sigley said. “It’s amazing the amount of trust…once we’re in each other’s arms, once they feel I’m not there to do anything [hurtful].”
Among clients whose pasts may not be as complicated, “there is a demand to reinitiate touch into someone’s life,” Sigley said. “It’s not necessarily about the cuddling: It’s more about the experience of being able to develop a relationship of trust and empathy in a stranger—so much that you can be wrapped up in them.”
At this level of human connection, “high touch” takes on new meaning.
About The Author
Curt Pesmen, author of My Cancer Year and How a Man Ages, is a Boulder, Colorado-based writer and editor. He has written for Esquire, Outside, SELF, and the New York Times.
11 Benefits of Hugging – Backed by Chemistry
by Dr. Fahad Basheer, December 3rd 2015
Hugging! We often hug each other when we are happy or when we see the person we love most. We often feel joy and happiness when hugging another person, and a hug can convey a lot about how we’re feeling and how we feel about each other. Each time we sincerely hug someone, we are actually conveying our love and joy for that person in a way that can never be explained through our words alone. We feel all our burdens ease away while we are in a hug, and those worries are replaced by increased feelings of happiness and trust.
Do you know why this happens while we hug each other?
Have you ever wondered what happens within you while you are hugging someone?
Let us examine some of the most amazing physiological miracles that happen in our bodies thanks to hugs.
1. Increases Bonding
Hugging can cause a release of oxytocin from the brain, causing us to bond with our partner. The release of this hormone causes a rise in feelings of commitment and intimacy as we share feelings for each other through hugging (1) Try hugging with your partner to feel your bond strengthen!
Hugging causes our muscles to relax, releasing tension in the body. (2) Hug someone to wash away the cares of the day!
3. Relieves Pain
Hugging releases endorphins, which relieve pain by blocking pain pathways and soothe aches by increasing circulation to soft tissues. This removes pain-stimulating peptides like bradykinins. (1,2) When you are in pain, reach out for a hug!
4. Increases Empathy & Understanding
A passionate hug allows for the exchange of feelings across the bioenergetics field generated by the heart, causing us to empathize with the other person. This builds trust between people in a way that words simply cannot. (1) Hug someone when you want to open your heart to them!
5. Relieves Depression & Neurodegenerative Disorders
Hugging can increase the production of dopamine in your brain, and this can be seen in PET scans of the brain. Dopamine levels are low in people with conditions like Parkinsonism and mood disorders like Depression. (2,3) So if you see someone depressed, give him a hug, and bring a little joy to their life.
6. Elevates Mood
Hugging can increase the production of serotonin from your brain, which improves your mood and can boost your self-esteem. A person experiences depression and loneliness when their serotonin levels are low. Hugging causes the brain to release serotonin and endorphin to blood vessels to create pleasure and negate sadness. Hugging also results in improved performance at work and at school. (1,3) Hug your partner if they are feeling blue!
7. Balances Nervous System
Hugging balances the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny-egg shaped pressure sensors called the pacnician corpuscles which are in contact with the brain through the Vagus nerve. They can sense touch. The galvanic response measured from someone who receives a hug shows a marked change in skin conductance. The effect of moisture and electricity over the skin during hugging shows a balanced state of nervous system parasympathetic which is achieved by psychophysiological coherence created by passionate hugging. (2,3) Keep hugging and balance your nervous system!
8. Alleviates Stress
Hugging alleviates stress by reducing the levels of circulating cortisol (the stress hormones) in the blood. This causes the mind to calm down. This helps in decreasing cortisol-induced hyperglycemia and diabetes mellitus. Studies show that well-hugged babies are less stressed than less-hugged adults. The research at Emory University discovered an amazing link between touch and relieving stress. (1,2) When your partner comes home after work, just give them a warm hug!
9. Improves Heart Health, Decreases Heart Rate
Hugging can decrease heart rate. In a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, participants who did not have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to 5 beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment. Decreasing heart rates will help in decreasing blood pressure and cardiac illness. (2)
10. Boosts Immune System
Dr. Shelden Cohen conducted a study of over 400 healthy adults who were interviewed about their perceived social support. They participated in night phone interviews for two weeks. They were asked about the frequency that they engaged in personal conflict and received hugs that day. The researchers exposed the participants to the common cold virus and monitored to assess symptoms and signs of infection. They found that the people who perceived themselves as having good social support and received frequent hugs had less or no number of symptoms and signs of infection. The people who went through interpersonal conflict and the people who received less or no hugs, however, exhibited different symptoms and signs of infection. Hugging can decrease the stress hormone which inhibits the immune system and increase the hormones and peptides that regulate the functioning of immune cells. (1,2) Give your children hugs and keep them healthy and immune!
11. Reduce Worry of Mortality
A study published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugging and touching reduce worry of mortality. The study also discovered that even hugging an inanimate object like a teddy bear was enough to soothe individual’s existential fears. Moreover, simply imagining hugging a person you love the most can cause your brain to release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin, triggering feelings of happiness and joy. This will also negate the worries of mortality by decreasing the levels of stress hormone, by altering the perception of the brain, and by evoking positive emotions. (2) Don’t worry, hug and live long!
To conclude, a hug can make us confident and amiable. It can help in strengthening our bonds and can open up the gates to the depths of our minds. It can help in establishing a sense of trust between people and can make us open our hearts each other. The hug can cause a great change within us; it triggers a massive release of nueurohormones in the body which can calm our minds. These neurohormones will bring joy and happiness in us and will alleviate our sadness, tensions, and anxieties. Hugging alleviates pain and brings ecstasy. (1)
(1) The Science of emotions: Dr. Fahad Basheer page 23
(2) The physiological benefits of hugging: Josh Richardson
(3) Benefits of hugging: The Times of India
About The Author
Dr. Fahad Basheer
Dr. Fahad basheer is an Author and a medical consultant. He is a highly influential independent researcher of consciousness, mind body continuum system and its applications in medicine.He has specialized in NLP psycho therapeutics. He is the author of the book “The Science of Emotions”. He has published numerous articles to different magazines and Medical Journals. Follow him on Facebook.
Stillness in the Storm Editor’s note: Did you find a spelling error or grammar mistake? Do you think this article needs a correction or update? Or do you just have some feedback? Send us an email at email@example.com. Thank you for reading.