Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” She realized something very important for our families. Our children, our parents, and our spouses need our healthy touch. Without healthy touch, our family will get “touch hungry” and that’s worse than “hangry.” For instance, one study involving 509 adults found “touch hunger” increased loneliness, depression, and stress while decreasing happiness, relationship satisfaction, and relational security. Another study found “touch hunger” reduced satisfaction and closeness in romantic relationships.
“Touch hunger” doesn’t just impact our mood and relationships either. It can have an actual physical impact as well. For instance, one study found that 10 minutes of holding hands followed by a 20 second hug with a partner, contributed to lower blood pressure and heart rate during a stressful experience. Other studies have shown “touch hunger” contributes to an increased sense of physical pain and disturbed sleep. Finally, this study and this study suggest that hugging increased immune health in general and, more specifically, those who were hugged more were less likely to show symptoms of a virus (the common cold) than those who were not hugged. And, when they did show symptoms, the symptoms were less severe.
I don’t want my family to go hungry for touch, do you? I don’t want them to experience “touch hunger.” I want them to enjoy the healthy touch that contributes to less stress, greater happiness, and more secure relationships. I want them to receive enough healthy touch that they sleep well, experience less physical pain, and maintain a healthy immune system. I’m sure you do as well. Make time today to hug your family. Better yet, hug them several times. After all, they deserve more than survival and maintenance. They deserve growth.
Parents hug their children as an expression of affection, comfort, and joy…and because we like to hug them. Even as adults we recognize a hug as a communication of love, comfort, or celebration. But did you know that hugs have a physical impact on the hugger and the one hugged. A study published in 2020 in iScience confirmed this by monitoring the heart rate of infants under the age of 1-year-old while they were given a 20-second hug, held for 20 seconds, tightly hugged for 20 seconds, or in their crib for 20 seconds. The hug, holding, or tight hug was given by their parent and by a female they did not know (who had experience in childbirth and childcare). Some of their findings you might expect. For instance,
Children four-months-old and older exhibited a slower heart rate when hugged by a parent. They physically relaxed when hugged by their parent.
They did not exhibit a slower heart rate or physically relax when hugged by a stranger, even though the “stranger” in this experiment had experience in childbirth and parenting. Experience with children and infants does not replace the hug of a parent!
Some results were a little more unexpected. For instance,
The parents’ heart rate also slowed when they hugged their children. Parent and child both physically relax when a parent hugs their child.
The children did not exhibit a slower heart rate or physically relax when simply held or hugged tightly, even if it was their parent. This suggests that a child can differentiate a hug from simply being held and from being held “tightly” (perhaps as a parent holds the child to protect them or while experiencing their own fear or negative emotion.) It is not just physical contact that impacts heart rate and relaxation but an affectionate, loving hug.
This study reveals the heartbeat of a hug for infants and parents. But I wonder if this ever changes in life. Who doesn’t relax into the arms of a spouse’s hug? Who doesn’t rejoice in the hug of their teen? And, if truth be told, what teen doesn’t really enjoy the occasional affectionate hug of a parent? The heartbeat of a hug is more than just a slowing of the heart and physical relaxation. The heartbeat of a hug is a life-giving, joyous celebration of connection. Today, share a few hugs with those you love and experience the heartbeat of a hug!
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.
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” You may read that and think, “That’s a lot of hugging. Who came up with those numbers, anyway?”
I don’t know who figured out the numbers; but research does reveal that hugs improve our physical and emotional health. For instance, 404 volunteers from the Pittsburgh area participated in a study exploring social support, hugging, and physical illness. The volunteers were asked every evening for 14 days about their social relationships and whether they had received a hug that day. Then, the volunteers were given nasal drops containing a virus that produced symptoms like the common cold (yes, they volunteered for this!). Volunteers who had received more hugs showed a decreased risk for actually “catching the cold.” In addition, of those who did “catch the cold,” those who had been hugged more often had less severe symptoms. And, the more hugs a person received, the more social support they felt. Hugs increased a sense of social support and decreased the risk of physically “catching a cold.”
Another study, involving 59 women in long-term relationships, shows that hugging can help reduce blood pressure too. In this study, the women were initially separated from their partner for 30 minutes. Then, their partner joined them for 10 minutes. During their 10 minutes together, they were encouraged to hold hands, watch a romantic video, and hug each other for at least 20 seconds. After 10-minutes together, the partner left, and the woman had to give an unprepared, spontaneous speech about an event that made her feel stressed. Blood pressure and oxytocin were measured throughout the procedure. The women also completed a questionnaire that included how frequently they hugged their partners. When all was said and done, more frequent hugging was related to higher oxytocin levels (Read 3…2…1…Oxytocin Release for more) and lower baseline blood pressure. In other words, more frequent hugging can help reduce high blood pressure and, as a result, the risk of heart disease.
Hugs can do even more too…but I don’t
have the time or space to share it now. I just got an urge to hug my wife.
She’s only had 4 today and I don’t want to quit hugging her at mere survival.
I’m shooting for enough hugging to really us grow. What about you? Will you
give the one you love 12 hugs a day for growth?
Have you ever found yourself constantly irritated with your teen? It just seems that everything they do is done to agitate us and push us away. We begin to wonder where our sweet little girl who cuddled up with us has gone or what happened to our little boy who loved to play games with us. Unfortunately, we seem to notice more and more negative behaviors that reinforce and increase our agitation and worry. Those small but negative behaviors begin to form a filter through which we see every action and hear every word. We begin to hear simple replies as replies filled with attitude. Gestures and faces take on significant and negative meaning. Disrespect grows in our minds while our teens attempt to assure us they do not intend disrespect. Even this seems disrespectful. Part of the problem we are experiencing was explained over 100 years ago by William James when he said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” In the mid-1900’s we learned that the brain only has a limited attentional capacity. We can only attend to so many things at a time (psychologists tell us we only have the capacity to attend to 7+2 chunks of information at a time). In other words, we cannot attend to every aspect of our teens’ behaviors. We are going to attend to and remember only those behaviors we “agree to attend to,” those behaviors we focus on. If we focus on all the things we don’t like, we will begin to see only cause for worry and concern when we see our teens. If, on the other hand, we focus on those things we can admire and be proud of, we will see those things that create further admiration and pride. Don’t worry, we’ll still see behaviors that need corrected. But, we will also increase the joy of having an intimate relationship with our teen. How can you keep the positive aspects of your teen in mind when their hormones and argumentative behaviors seem to overwhelm us? Here are a few ideas.
Remember, your teen is growing up. Their argumentativeness is preparing them to take a firm stand for their values in the world. Their risk taking behaviors are preparing them to take the risk of leaving home for college or vocational training. Rather than see these as negative aspects of their behavior, see them as training opportunities. Help them learn to channel those behaviors in a positive direction. (Read The ESSENCE of Adolescence for more)
Hug your teen as often as you can each day. Virginia Satir, a highly respected family therapist, once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Aim to promote growth for your teen by sharing as many hugs as they’ll accept each day.
Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to stop three times every day for 10 seconds. During those 10 seconds write down three positive thoughts about each of your teens. At the end of the day, tell them at least one of the things you wrote down.
Think of a gesture, picture, phrase, or object that reminds you of your teen. Each day briefly look at the picture or object, repeat the phrase, or make the gesture three to four times. You might do it when you wake up, eat lunch, return home, or before you go to bed. Each time you do, let positive, adoring memories of your teen come to mind.
Pray for your teen daily. Prayer really does change things. Ironically, the change often begins with the changed attitude of the one praying.
As you put these five bullets into practice, you will find your image of your teen changes. You will notice more positive behaviors. You will find yourself in a more satisfying relationship with them. You will enjoy their company more and admire their accomplishments. You will have improved your relationship with your teen!
Imagine getting called into your boss’s office the moment you walk into work. Hesitantly, you enter her office and sit down. Butterflies flit about in your stomach as your boss, with a very serious look in her eyes, leans forward to say, “I am so pleased with your work that I decided to quadruple your salary.” Relief chases away the butterflies from your stomach and joy spreads a smile across your face. Can you imagine the happiness you’d feel? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sadly, it will probably never happen. But, what would you say if I told you another way to increase your happiness the same amount as quadrupling your income? Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, knows a way. He quantifies how marriage can impact happiness. “The strongest predictors of happiness by far are our social relationships” and “marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary.” (Read more here.) Isn’t that amazing? Marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to quadrupling your salary. I agree… with one caveat. Happiness is not increased by any old marriage. Only healthy marriages increase happiness; unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, rob couples of happiness. So, if you want a marriage that increases happiness as much as quadrupling your income, build a healthy marriage. To help you do that, here are ten simple ways to build a healthy marriage.
Greet each morning with a positive and loving statement like “Good morning. I love you.”
Share a kiss any time you part during the day.
Share a hug and a kiss each time you reunite. Make it an intentional 10-second oxytocin hug at least on time each day.
Express gratitude for your spouse every day. Thank them for something they did, compliment something about their appearance, share a character trait you admire, etc. You get the idea. Express gratitude for your spouse every day.
Look at your partner and listen when they talk to you. Put down the newspaper, get off the cell phone, look away from the TV, and look at your spouse. Let them know you understand.
Do one nice thing for your spouse every day. Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes. Make the bed. Wash the car. Clean the kitty litter. Anything. Just do something nice!
Remain polite toward your spouse, even when you’re angry or tired. Remember to use words like “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open. Let your spouse go first.
Touch…in and out of the bedroom.
Celebrate the good moments of each day together. Take a moment at the end of each day to recall the good and joyous moments of the day.
Ask your spouse what else you could do to make them feel more secure in your relationships, what you can do to show them how much you love them.
I’m sorry I can’t manage to quadruple your salary, but you’ll find the same increase in happiness by increasing the quality of your marriage. Give those 10 tips a try and enjoy the increase in happiness.
We all want happy families. In fact, I’m implementing a 30-day family happiness challenge in my home and I’d like to invite you to join along. It really isn’t all that hard. But, it will demand doing certain things every day for 30 days. So, set the reminder on your phone, write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror…whatever it takes to make sure you
remember each action each day. Here they are.
Give your spouse and each child 3 hugs every day for 30 days. That’s one hug when you leave the house, one hug before bed, and one hug sometime in between. (Learn more in Becoming a Master Hugger.)
Give your spouse and each child one genuine compliment every day for 30 days. Tell them a character trait you appreciate or something you admire about them.
Tell your spouse and each child “thank you” for something they did every day for 30 days. This is different than the compliment. The compliment will acknowledge some character trait you admire. The “thank you” will acknowledge something they just did in the moment that day. You can say “thank you” for something as simple as passing the salt or as involved as painting the house. Whether it’s something you expect them to do all the time or a surprise, offer thanks. (Read the amazing benefits of gratitude in 7 Ways Gratitude Benefits Your Family According to Research and Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores?)
Tell your spouse and each child “I love you” every day for 30 days. I would suggest doing this in the morning and in the evening before bed, but you can pick any time you like. Just make sure to tell each one every day.
Do one thing for your spouse and each child every day for 30 days. That’s right, do one thing for each person. It doesn’t have to be big, just do something for them. They do not even have to notice it, just do something for them. Unload the dishwasher, sweep the floor, get gas in the car, help set the table, watch a movie together, patiently help with homework, get a treat…you get the idea. Do one thing for your spouse and each child every day.
Eat one meal together every day for 30 days. During the meals enjoy conversation. Avoid lectures and “touchy subjects.” Just talk about the day. Tell some jokes. You might even give your compliment, “thank you,” or “I love you” during the meal. (Have Fun, Eat, &…What? will show a surprising benefit of eating as a family.)
None of these activities are especially hard; but, you will find they have an amazing impact on your family. Don’t believe me? Take up the challenge. Do each one for the next 30 days…it may make a believer out of you! Either way, I’d love to know what happens so leave a note in the message below.
Marital intimacy is built upon simple everyday activities. Here are a few of those simple every day activities you can use to strengthen your marriage.
Hold hands every day. Hold hands while you take a walk. Hold hands while you watch TV. Hold hands while you sit together. Hold hands every chance you get.
Give one another a 10 second hug when you get home at the end of the day… or when you leave at the start of the day… or both!
Kiss one another every day. Give a kiss good-bye, a kiss hello, a kiss just to kiss. Give a simple peck on the cheek or give a 10-second kiss…or just sit down and kiss as long as you want.
Say kind words to one another. “Good morning.” “Good night.” “I love you.” “Have a good day.” Offer a compliment. Say “Thank you.” Don’t forget to say “You’re welcome,” too.
Do a project together. For instance, make dinner together. Do yardwork together. You might even do a little home remodeling.
Do kind things for one another. Hold the door open and let your spouse go first. Do an extra chore around the house. Make the bed. Give your spouse a simple gift. Let your spouse have the last piece of pie.
Text your spouse to see how he or she is doing. Or, text them to ask about some special appointment in their life. Text them to say how much you love them. You get the idea. Text them to spread a little love.
Tell your spouse one thing you appreciate about them every day.
Bring home a small gift for your spouse. It doesn’t need to be a big gift. If your spouse likes a certain candy bar, bring one home. If they like a particular kind of gum, bring home a pack. Buy a card and write a note of appreciation in it before giving it your spouse. Of course, there are always flowers too.
Resolve disagreements and arguments as they occur and as quickly as possible.
You can carry out these simple activities on a daily basis and each one will strengthen your marriage and increase intimacy with your spouse.
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.
Give 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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
An old proverb encouraged healthy eating by reminding us “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I do agree that an apple a day beats getting sick. Carnegie Mellon University has discovered another way to keep the doctor away, another daily practice that can encourage healthy living. This one is free and I love it! To test this method of encouraging health, researchers exposed 404 adults to a common cold virus. (The volunteers knew about the exposure and were paid $1,000 for their involvement. What would you do for a thousand bucks?) After the initial exposure, volunteers were quarantined and monitored for symptoms. Some of the volunteers developed cold symptoms. Some did not. Researchers compared who did and did not develop cold symptoms with perceived social support in general and being hugged by a trusted person, in particular. The results showed that being hugged by a trusted person actually protected participants from the cold virus. In other words, those who reported receiving more hugs over the two weeks prior to exposure were less likely to catch a cold…even when intentionally exposed to the virus! And, for those who did catch the cold, the volunteers who reported more frequent hugs in the two weeks prior to exposure developed less severe symptoms. It seems a hug a day can keep the doctor away. I’ve been requesting extra hugs since I read this article…for purposes of remaining healthy of course.
Now you know this free health promoting practice: hugging. If you want a healthy family this year, go ahead and encourage everyone to eat an apple a day. But, don’t stop there. Add a new action to your family health plan. This year, prevent illness by giving your spouse and kids at least one hug a day. If you really want to make it special and enjoy even more benefits, share an oxytocin hug each day. Help your family stay healthy. Share a hug every day. After all, it seems “a hug a day keeps the doctor away.”