Tag Archive for physical affection

Six Reasons to Hug Your Family

A hug is defined as the “holding or squeezing of someone tightly in one’s arms.”  But, in reality, a hug is much more than simply holding or squeezing another person. A hug is powerful. A hug can change a life. In fact, here are 6 reasons to hug your spouse, children, and parents on a regular basis.

  • Research out of Carnegie Mellon University suggests that receiving a hug on the day of a conflict contributed to feeling less negative emotion the day of the conflict and the day after the conflict. The hug also prevented the conflict from reducing positive emotion on the day of the conflict. In other words, a hug helps people feel better even after a conflict.
  • In another study involving 404 participants, hugs were found to buffer the stress caused by daily stressors and resulted in less severe symptoms when infected with a virus for the common cold. Want your loved ones to be less stressed and have fewer symptoms of illness? Give them a hug.
  • Hugs may boost heart health also. A study published in 2003 found that people who held hands with their loved one for ten minutes and then hugged them for 20 seconds (compared to those who simply rested for 10 minutes and 20 seconds) had lower blood pressure & less increase in heart rate during a public speaking assignment. In other words, physical affection, including a hug, reduces our reactivity to stresses and promotes better heart health.
  • A good 20-second hug releases oxytocin…and oxytocin counteracts stress, helps us relax, increases our level of trust, and increases our empathy and feelings of intimacy. You could say hugs release oxytocin and make us feel good.
  • Hugs also communicate affection and love to the other person. A hug communicates “You belong.” Who doesn’t like to know they belong? Everyone enjoys knowing they are loved. Communicate your love…give a hug.
  • Last, but not least, hugs feel good. You can feel the comfort and the relaxing of the muscles even as you feel the other person’s arms engulf you in a hug.

Hugs benefit our physical health, our emotional health, and our mental health. They communicate love and help people know they belong. Give your loved ones a hug today. Better yet, give them several hugs today.

Cuddle Up A Little Closer

Ah, the cuddle. Whether it be a hug, a snuggle, hand-holding, or a “smooch,” we love ’em all. And why not? Cuddling does wonderful things for us and our relationship. Let me just name a few: 

  • Cuddling releases a “bonding” hormone (oxytocin). When we cuddle, we bond with the one to whom we cuddle. In other words, we feel closer to one another. So, snuggle up and bond. Enjoy the intimacy. You might even find yourself talking a little more.
  • Cuddling increases happiness. Who can stay grumpy when snuggled up with the one you love?
  • Cuddling reduces stress and anxiety. There’s just something about snuggling into the arms of our love and feeling the stress melt away.
  • Cuddling also lowers blood pressure. Increased happiness, reduced stress, and lowered blood pressure all add up to increased heart health too!
  • Cuddling releases oxytocin which helps block pain signals. As a result, cuddling reduces pain.
  • Cuddling also helps us fight colds and other infections. When we feel good our body doesn’t want illness to interfere. So, it fights infections even more.
  • Cuddling helps us sleep too.

Is it any wonder we like to cuddle? It soothes us and lifts our mood. It melts away the strain and stress of the day. It relieves the pain. All the while it bonds us to the one with whom we snuggle. So, grab your spouse and “cuddle up a little closer.” You know you want to. Sing along with Andy Burrows with full sincerity, “I’d rather have cuddle than a video; I’d rather have cuddle than anything I know. I’d rather have a cuddle than ketchup, chips, or peas. A computer can be lovely, but a cuddle’s what I need!”

Six 10-Second Marriage Refreshers

Every marriage needs refreshing. Busyness, everyday frustrations, little irritations, arguments…they all serve to clutter our marriage and slow our loving response.  When that happens, we need to refresh our marriage, reaffirm our love and reestablish our connection. Here are some simple, yet effective ways to refresh your marriage in 10-seconds.

  1. Senior Couple - Kiss on the CheekGive your spouse a 10-second hug. Wrap your arms around your spouse and hold on tight. A 10-second hug will release oxytocin, a hormone affectionately nicknamed the “cuddle hormone.”
  2. Think about the traits and strengths you admire in your spouse. Write down as many as you can in 10 seconds. Go ahead, set the timer and go…. You can even set an alarm to do this two or three times a day.
  3. Take 10 seconds to think about the past few days and write down things your spouse has said or done for which you are grateful.
  4. After you have done numbers 2 and 3, spend 10 seconds sending your spouse a text telling them one thing you admire about them or thanking them for something they’ve done…or both!
  5. Kiss for 10-seconds. I don’t mean a little peck on the cheek. Walk up to your spouse, take your spouse into your arms and give your spouse a big kiss…right on the lips! You’ll hear your kids say, “Ewwwww” but you’ll know you have just enjoyed a marriage refresher.
  6. Write your spouse a love note or an encouraging note on a post-it and stick it on the mirror for them to find. The note can be simple: “I love you” or “You’re in my heart” or “Good luck at your meeting” or…. You get the idea. A simple note in a place where your spouse will find it and you’ve just refreshed your marriage.

Practice these six 10-second marriage refreshers every day. They will help declutter your marriage and keep your love flowing strong. Why not take 10-seconds right now—pick one of these options and refresh your marriage?

Children Thrive Under These 4 Parenting Practices

Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, suggests children thrive in an environment shaped by certain parenting practices (Learn More Here). Children who grow up in that environment become adults who experience less depression and anxiety, display a greater ability to take another person’s perspective, and exhibit an orientation toward compassion. In other words, these parenting practices not only help a person thrive in childhood, they also nurture mature adults who contribute to a healthy community that will provide a nurturing environment for the next generation of children. What are these crucial parenting behaviors?

  • A father helps his daughter on the playgroundResponsiveness. Responsive parents become students of their children. They learn about, and become sensitive to, their children’s cues and signals. They recognize their children’s emerging emotions and respond to the underlying need before they reach a disquieting level of stress. Research suggests this level of parental responsiveness contributes to greater empathy and a greater ability to meet their personal needs and anxieties. Responsiveness also nurtures a positive self-concept, decreasing the chances of experiencing depression.
  • Affectionate Touch. Touch helps soothe and calm children, nurturing their ability to soothe themselves. Touch also expresses love, building a sense of “lovability,” self-worth, and competence. Affectionate, loving touch helps children develop healthy personal boundaries that promote safety as well. Touch requires a parent’s physical presence…and children need lots of touch. So, spend lots of time with your children and fill it with loving touch.
  • Play. Free and imaginative play with parents and other loving community members benefits children. Play is interactive, enhancing social skills. Free play, unlike adult supervised play, requires negotiation and compromise, building healthy conflict resolution skills. Imaginative play also builds perspective taking which is so important to empathy and compassion. In addition, play provides the opportunity to create social supports. Play helps children “stand a head taller than themselves” (Read Make Your Child a Head Taller than Himself).
  • Community of Affectionate Caregivers. It’s true: It really does take a village to raise a child. We need our primary caregivers—our mother and father. Still, a community of affectionate people who engage in loving interactions and provide loving guidance empowers a parent to become even more responsive and affectionate. The loving community provides support in times of physical and emotional distress as well as a greater sense of security and trust. Healthy community nurtures empathy and compassion, kindness, and even a greater sense of justice.

When parents implement these four practices, children thrive. They mature into responsible adults who support a healthy community which, in turn, encourages parents who implement these four basic practices with a new generation of children. In other words, implementing these four parenting practices can initiate a revolution of growing health in our communities. Sounds like a great reason to start using these parenting practices today.

A Page From the NBA Playbook for Your Family

Father and son smiling for the cameraMichael Kraus (a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in 2008) discovered a surprising way to gauge the potential success of your favorite NBA team. He tested many possibilities. Higher paid players did not predict success. Neither did preseason expectations or early season performance. The greatest predictor of a successful season for a NBA team was the number of times the players reached out and touched one another during the first games of the season. The higher the number of touches, the greater the chance of success. Touch somehow communicated trust and enhanced cooperation among the players. As a result, the team was free to focus on the game, free to pass the ball rather than take “an ill-advised shot,” free to work together. So, if you want to predict a winner in the NBA, count the number of times players slap one another on the back, chest bump, high five, fist bump, head slap, hug, huddle, or somehow engage in touch on the court.

 

Don’t we want an environment of trust and cooperation in our family? Don’t we desire a family environment that frees each family member to seek input rather than make “ill-advised” decisions? Maybe we can take a hint from the NBA play book and add some healthy touch into our family life. Give a fist bump, a high five, a hug, a loving slap on the back, or some other kind of creative healthy touch. That touch will build affection and trust. It will enhance cooperation. It may even predict a successful family season this year!

Charlie Pride and Four Secrets to Life-Long Marital Bliss

I constantly search for secrets to a better marriage and family life. I need all the help I can get. Recently, I rediscovered a profound lesson for creating a life-long marriage. I had heard this advice as a child, even learned it in the car with my family; but, I did not realize the wisdom behind the words until I was married. Of all the places, I learned this lesson singing along with the radio…and Charlie Pride was my teacher. You may have learned this song as well. He called it “the secret to his happiness.” It goes like this:

Senior Couple - Kiss on the Cheek“You’ve got to…kiss an angel good morning

And let her know you think about her when you’re gone.

Kiss an angel good morning

And love her like the devil when you get back home.”

(Click here to listen to Charlie Pride sing the whole song)

 

This little chorus offers four secrets to life-long marriage bliss. Here they are:

  1. “KISS…” Show physical affection. Kiss your spouse in the morning. Kiss your spouse to greet her when you get back home. Kiss your spouse goodnight. In John Gottman’s “Magic Five Hours,” he recommends giving your spouse physical affection for at least five minutes per day. Kiss, hold, grab, and touch. Show some physical affection to your angel (AKA-spouse).
  2. “Kiss an ANGEL….” View your spouse as an angel. In other words, nurture your admiration for your spouse. Take time to recall what attracts you to your spouse. Think about those traits you admire in your spouse, those unique characteristics you adore. Then communicate that admiration to your spouse on a daily basis.
  3. “…let her know you think about her when you’re gone.” Keep your spouse in mind, even when you are apart. Text you spouse a message or two (“I love you,” “What are you doing?” etc.) just to let her know she is on your mind. If you see something your spouse likes that is small enough to buy, get it for her. If it is too big to take home (a sunset, a bird she likes), take a picture and text it to her. Little things like this can let her know she is “always on my mind…” (Oops, wrong song).
  4. “Love her like the devil when you get back home.” Don’t come home, sit in your chair, and vegetate. Let your actions reveal your love. Spend time with your spouse. Share what happened in your day. Help her with a project around the house. Watch a show together. Interact. Communicate. Serve. Oh yeah, show some physical affection. “Love her…when you get back home.”

 

When husbands and wives both practice these four tips, you can enjoy an intimate life-long marriage…and thank Charlie Pride for the advice!

Planting Seeds of Beauty in Our Daughters

“Women are their own worst beauty critics.” A new Dove campaign helps reveal this truth by having women, after having a short conversation with another woman, sit behind a veil and describe their physical appearance to an FBI sketch artist. After he sketches the woman based on her own description, he makes a second sketch based on the description of the stranger who had just met the woman in a short conversation. The sketches are then compared. The results are very interesting to say the least. Check out the video at this link or read the related article at Huffington Post for more information about this campaign and to see the comparative sketches.
 
When I watch this video I begin to wonder about our daughters…my daughters and your daughters. How can we help our daughters develop a more accurate view of themselves? What can we do to help our teens learn to see the inherent beauty they have as God’s masterpiece? Here are some tips to help you instill a sense of esteem and beauty into your daughter. Although these tips are important for both parents, I think a father plays a special role in how their daughter sees herself in the world.
 
     ·         Spend time with your daughters. Daughters see themselves through their father’s eyes. If they know that their father sees them as beautiful, they see themselves as beautiful. If they know that their father values them, they feel greater value. Remember, children (daughters included) spell love T-I-M-E. When we spend time with our daughters, they recognize our love and so feel loved, valued, and beautiful.

·         Tell your daughter she is beautiful. Let her know that you find her attractive. Pay attention–notice when she gets a haircut and comment on it. Tell her that she “looks nice in that blouse” or that she looks “beautiful in her glasses.” Take time to notice her appearance and what makes her attractive. Make a point to acknowledge her attractiveness.

·         Talk to your daughter about beauty and the images of beauty portrayed in the media (Check this link for the creation of media beauty).Teach her that beauty is more that skin deep. Beauty is a reflection of a person’s inner character. Help her develop a character that emanates beauty. As noted in the last bullet, notice the beauty that exudes from her character and acknowledge that beauty: “Your generosity toward your friend is so beautiful,” “You looked so beautiful as you said those kind things,” or “You were so beautiful when you humbly stepped back and let your friend take the limelight.”

·         Hug your daughter. Some fathers hug less when their daughters hit puberty. But, it is as important to hug our teenage daughters as it is to hug our preteen daughters. Hugging our daughters reminds them that we love them; we value them. Our love is constant, even in the midst of any adolescent changes they may encounter. Continuing to hug our daughters, even into adolescence and adulthood, lets them know that our love for them transcends their body. It helps them to realize that their bodies are only one aspect of who they are, not their total identity. Males may begin to “check them out” as they move through adolescence, but our hugs reassure them that they are loved for their person, not their shape.  

·         Treat all the women in your life with honor and respect. Our daughters are watching us…and learning from what they observe. When they see us treat women with honor and respect, they learn that they deserve honor and respect. So, hold the door open for the ladies, speak with politeness and respect, offer sincere compliments, offer to carry a heavy package…. Show by your example that women deserve honor and respect from those around them.  
 
Perhaps if we begin with these simple ideas, the next generation of women will give a more accurate description of their beauty. What tips might you offer to help our daughters accept the beauty God has given them?

What We Do For Marriage & Family

Last week I read a post by The Romantic Vineyard about “What we do” to keep our marriage strong. I wanted to add some “we do’s” to the list as well. What do we do on a regular basis to keep our marriage strong? Interestingly, most of the things I thought of not only build a stronger marriage but a stronger family as well!

 

We do humor. I love to laugh with my wife…and I love to laugh with my children. Humor keeps even the most difficult situations running more smoothly. Humor lessens the friction during conflict. Humor draws us into relationship and deepens our intimacy. Some of our best memories involve times of uncontrolled laughter on the part of at least one family member. To laugh with family is a beautiful thing.

 

We do music. We listen to music and play music. We share our favorite songs. We sing together…sometimes we sound beautiful and sometimes not so much. Still, we do music. Just as music is filled with harmonies and the sharing of melodies, a family that does music together learns to live their life in harmony with one another while taking turns performing the melody.

 

We do awe and wonder. I love to experience something majestic or awe-inspiring with my wife. As we stand in awe looking over the wonder of creation or enjoy the awe-inspiring music of a concert, time stands still and we spend an eternal moment enjoying the same wonder. Our favorite time of shared awe and wonder comes in the moments of worship…and that worship can be at church singing a worship song or standing silently hand-in-hand on the beach watching the whales play in the ocean. (Check out this blog on the benefit of awe and wonder to a family.) 

 

We do holding and hugging. What more can I say? We hold hands, share hugs, and walk arm in arm. When we say good-bye, we give a hug or a kiss. When we come home, we give a hug. When we go to bed, we give a hug. An accomplishment gets a hug or a high-five. For no special reason, we share an oxytocin hug . Hugs put flesh and blood on our expression of love.

 

We do lunch. The work schedules of my wife and I often make supper a difficult time to share a meal together. So, we enjoy lunch together. Lunch has become one of my favorite parts of the day. After all, I get to combine eating with the enjoyment of my wife’s company…what more could I ask for?

 

We do Church. Going to worship services at church is a time of growing intimacy between us and between God and us. As a couple and as a family we serve together by helping with various projects at church. We have enjoyed mission trips and service activities as a family. We support one another in our individual efforts to serve through the Church. Whether one of us goes on a mission trip without family or plays in a worship band, we support one another and share in one another’s excitement for that service.

 

What do you do to strengthen your marriage and family?

Relationships Rule

Some people seem to think that rules make the child. When children begin to misbehave, they slap on more rules to pull them back in line. They believe that the more children misbehave, the more rules they need to make them behave. Don’t get me wrong, rules are important. However, effective parenting does not begin with making more rules, but by forming a stronger relationship with your children. The stronger your relationship with your children, the more readily they will listen and obey…the more effective your parenting. Rather than need more rules, misbehaving children often need their parents to “lean into the relationship” while upholding the rules already in place. Children need relationship as much as they need structure. Josh McDowell even devised a formula for this: “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.”
Brain science actually lends support to this concept. Our brains adapt to the environment around them. An environment filled with loving, positive relationships produces brains that know how to trust others and show consideration to others. An environment filled with yelling, anger, and conflict produces brains that feel the need to defend, strike first to protect, or avoid. Which do you want your children to develop? One results in a person geared toward relational, and thereby overall, success. The other contributes to a defensive, fearful person…not a person geared toward long-term relational success.
How can we work to develop a positive relationship with our children? Here are five ways to help you begin.
1.Start young. Begin spending time with your child immediately. Talk to them, play with them, eat with them, and enjoy time with them. Invest time and energy in your child as soon as you know you or your spouse is pregnant. If your child is already a teen, don’t worry. It is never too late to start. Begin to spend time with them now. Learn about their interests and talk to them about their dreams.
2.Do things with your child. Take them to a concert of their choosing. Sure, the music is loud and you may not like it, but your child will always remember your willingness to spend time at a concert they liked. I remember my father playing Frisbee with me. I never thought much about it until I grew older and realized he is legally blind. Suddenly, it made sense that Frisbee color, background colors, and cloudy skies mattered. Each of these aspects helped him see the Frisbee. I look back on those times of Frisbee with great joy, even more so as I’ve matured and realized the effort he invested in playing. You can play a game, play catch, have a snowball battle, teach them something they might like, let them teach you something, eat together, or simply sit down to talk. Do a variety of things and do them often.
3.Listen to your child. When they are babies, listen to learn which sounds signal distress, which sounds express joy, and which sounds are just sounds. As your child gets older, listen to what they say. Listen to their questions and listen to their assumptions. You can learn so much about your child just by listening. And, your child learns that their thoughts are valuable to you. If they see you value their thoughts, they know you value them.
4.After you have listened, dialogue. Don’t lecture, jump in with your own solutions, or pontificate on your own opinions. Have a dialogue. I struggle with this one. Sometimes, I just want to tell my daughters the answer. I have more experience than they do and a better idea about what is best for them. But, I have learned that jumping in too soon means they won’t listen well. When I talk with them, allowing them to think and offering soft answers and points for them to consider, they becomes much more receptive. I wager your children will, too. So, converse with your children.
5.Hug your child. Touch communicates love. Hug your child good morning. Hug your child when one of you leaves for the day. Hug your child when you greet one another after time apart. Hug your child goodnight. When you sit down to watch TV, put your arm around your child. When you stand together, put a hand on their shoulder. I still remember my grandfather walking with his arm around my shoulder and the security I felt with his hand on my shoulder.Touch communicates safety, love, security, and honor. Give your child a hug.
I’m sure you can think of more ways to develop your relationship with your child. Share them in the comment section below so we can all have more ways to build our relationship with our children. After all, the stronger our relationship, the more effective our parenting.

3…2…1…Oxytocin Release

I have one daughter in 11th grade, one daughter in 8th grade, and I’m an adjunct faculty member at a local university. We all returned to school this month. I like school…but it does come with a boat load of stressful demands and expectations. Getting up and off to school on time, homework to complete after school, long-term projects to plan for, less free-time during the day…. Although my wife does not attend school, she has the demands of open houses, band meetings, “holding down the fort” while everyone is gone for the day, and a myriad of other meetings and school related responsibilities. Really, her job is central to all others getting done. So, school brings a boat load of stress for everyone, whether you attend or live with those who do. This year I decided to wage an “Oxytocin Campaign” to combat the stress of school and the related fall schedule. I invite you to start an “Oxytocin Campaign” in your home as well. It’s really pretty simple. To begin with, you need to know a little bit about the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called the “cuddle hormone” because it aids in bonding between mother and child as well as man and wife. When released, oxytocin produces feelings of warmth, cuddling, and relaxation. It enhances bonding, trust, and empathy, opening the door to more intimate interactions. In addition, oxytocin counteracts the effects of stress. Think about it…oxytocin counteracts stress, helps us relax and trust, and increases our empathy and feelings of intimacy toward the other person. Sounds like we need more oxytocin in the world around us. So, the question is: how do we increase the oxytocin in our family? That’s where the “Oxytocin Campaign” comes in.
 
Oxytocin is released through touch. In particular, a 20-second hug will release oxytocin in both the hugger and the “huggee.” So, I’ve started practicing the “20-second hug” since the start of school, making it a major component of the “Oxytocin Campaign.” My kids think I’m crazy because I hug them and hold on…and hold on…and hold on for 15 seconds before I start the count down. “5…4…3…2…1…oxytocin release” I shout as I release the hug and step back. They laugh and shake their head at the ‘weirdness’ of it all, but walk away with a smile on their face. My wife has joined the campaign, too. We both walk away from our 20-second hug with a smile on our faces. A truly amazing transformation from stress wrinkled countenance to smiling face occurs after the “Oxytocin Releasing Hug.” So, head on out there. Grab a family member, give them a big bear hug, and begin the countdown. “5…4…3…2…1…oxytocin release!” Then watch the stress wrinkles melt as they are replaced with a big glowing smile.
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