Tag Archive for hugs

One Practice for a Healthier New Year

Apple TreeAn 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.”

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.

Becoming A Master Hugger

“Sometimes it’s better to put love into hugs than to put it into words.” (Author Unknown) That’s why parents need to become hugging experts. I don’t mean learning to hug as a past-time or a passing fad. No, parents have to become master huggers. In fact, I invite you to join the National Association of Master Huggers, the NAMH (don’t worry, I just made it up and there are no dues or fees to become a member). In order to become a full-fledged master hugger in this elite organization, you need to proceed through three levels. (Click on picture to right to see video of Juan Mann’s journey to “Master Hugger.”)
The novice level involves physically hugging your children. Hug your children on a daily basis. Put your arm around their shoulder when you stand or sit together. Physically hugging your child communicates love and value. It brings a sense of safety and security to your child. Your affection creates a greater sense of self-worth in your child’s life. As a novice member, you enjoy several benefits. For instance, experts tell us that loving touch may actually decrease promiscuity in girls (McDowell) and violence (Leman) in boys. Babies who receive loving touch grow better. Adults who comfortably give and receive loving touch are more open, tend to have lower blood pressure, and even live longer. 
Members reach the apprentice level when they learn to hug their children verbally. Children love to hear their parents express pride in their effort or ability. They long to hear their parent recognize them for who they are and what they can do. When we acknowledge our children in these ways, we verbally hug them. We also offer a verbal hug when we acknowledge their emotions and help them find a way to label and manage those emotions. Other methods of verbal hugging include talking about your child’s interests, acknowledging your child’s talents and strengths, admiring their effort at a task, acknowledging their courage, or providing a “verbal snapshot” of some positive behavior. Giving your children multiple verbal hugs on a daily basis will help them feel safe, secure, loved, and valued. Apprentice benefits include a stronger, more intimate relationship with your child. 
The final step to becoming a master hugger in the NAMH involves hugging your children with your thoughts; in other words, holding them in mind. Master huggers hold their children in mind by keeping their children’s interests, strengths, and needs in their thoughts…even when their children are not with them. Master huggers hold their child’s daily activities in mind and ask about them at the end of the day. They remember their children’s friends and inquire about them from time to time. Master huggers recognize the current challenges in their children’s lives. They not only keep those challenges in mind, but they verbally acknowledge the courage and persistence their children display when facing those challenges. Holding your child in mind, hugging them with your thoughts, expresses how much you value them and love them. (click on picture to see them “hug it forward” in New Zealand.)

When members learn to hug their children physically, verbally, and “mindfully,” they become Master Huggers, members of an elite group of men and women changing family generations…one hug at a time.

The Daily Routine

Relationship muscles, like all muscles, require training. The “Relationship Training Program” offers exercises that will build strength and endurance for the true relationship athlete. As with all training programs, a habit of daily exercises promote continued growth and health. One well-known relationship trainer, Dr. John Gottman, recommends a daily 32-minute routine that research has shown to strengthen relationships. Let me review his 32-minute regimen before adding one additional exercise that will increase it to 35 minutes a day.

  1. Before leaving your family for a day of work, school, or play, learn at least one thing that each person has planned for their day. Are they going anywhere? Who will they see? What activities do they have planned? Are they excited, apprehensive, or neutral about these plans? Are any plans special? This exercise will take about 2-3 minutes, depending on how much information you seek.
  2. Have a 20-minute conversation upon reuniting at the end of the workday. Sit down and discuss what happened during the day. Talk like friends, share what happened during your time apart. If there are disagreements, save them for another time. If there are demands or requests, put them on the back burner until after this 20-minute exercise.
  3. Find some way to communicate affection and appreciate to each family member every day. Look for something that you can admire or appreciate about each person. When you recognize it, tell them. Compliment their cooking, clothes, hair, or overall appearance. Tell them about some character trait that you appreciate in them. Spend 5 minutes throughout the day expressing admiration, affection, and appreciation for family members.
  4. Share physical touch with family members. Give a hug and kiss good-bye when you part, a hug and kiss hello when you reunite. Even if you are angry, give a hug and kiss good-night before bed. Gottman says to “think of that kiss as a way to let go of any minor irritations that have built up over the day. In other words, lace your kiss with forgiveness and tenderness for your partner.” Hold hands as you sit or walk together. Put your arm around your children’s shoulder as you stand in line. Spend 5 minutes sharing touch –playful, affectionate, or tender–throughout the day.
  5. So far we have 32 minutes invested in daily exercises to strengthen our relationships. Let me add one more 3 minute exercise to round our total up to 35 minutes a day. Each day write down 2-3 things that each member of your family has done to contribute to your personal life or your family stability. In addition, write down 2 things that each member of your family said or did that represents their best strengths and qualities.

That’s it, a daily 35-minute routine to strengthen your family relationships. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? In fact, the hard part is developing the habit of keeping the routine. To help you maintain the daily routine, I suggest a weekly reward. After successfully completing this daily routine for one week, have a small celebration, a weekly date of sorts. You might rent a movie and make popcorn. Or, you can play a game like “Apples to Apples,” “Charades,” or some other family favorite. You might prefer to go out for dessert. Whatever you choose, enjoy your time together, make small talk, plan vacations, dream about the future. You can even share some of the things you enjoyed about the exercise routine. Whatever you do, have fun. If you take about two hours, you will find the total time for this exercise routine is 5 hours and 21 minutes a week. Research suggests that this 5 hours can bring greater intimacy and joy into your relationships.

A Pandemonium of Honor

This week I am going to suggest my family play a new game. Perhaps your family would like to play this game as well. I believe the competition will prove intense. There will be no half-hearted, weak attempts to win, only full-fledged, over-the-top competition.  I usually do not compete with all my energy, but this time I’m out for the win. What game will we play?  An all-out, no-holds-barred game of “Gung-ho Honor” that some describe as a pandemonium of honor. The simple instructions for “Gung-ho Honor” were recorded long ago in a letter to a group of Romans—“Outdo one another in showing honor.” That’s it, the total instructions—“Outdo one another in showing honor.” Some people have trouble getting started; so, here are a couple of suggestions.
Imagine that your family members are royalty. They are kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Throughout the week, speak to them like royalty. Fill your speech toward your royal family with polite words, affirming words, and loving words. Take note of some task they finish and praise them for their effort. Affirm the special strengths they exhibit. Acknowledge the special talents they have. Appreciate acts of kindness. Even a simple “thank-you” or “you’re welcome” will score major points in this game of “Gung-ho Honor.”  
Treat your family members like royalty as well. You be the servant and whole-heartedly serve your family with abandon.  Each day, do something nice for your royal family members. Serve them breakfast, treat them to a massage, or do their chore for them.  Give an extra hug to each family member, especially if they feel down. Make it your goal to affirm and encourage them with your actions. Hold the door open, clean up their dishes, let them have the last cookie. Whatever it takes let your actions reveal how much you value your family.

I believe the competition will prove fierce. I will play with unrestrained abandon and encourage each family member to throw their heart and soul into the game as well. What will be the outcome of such intense competition? Parents will smile to see sons and daughters honoring one another—helping one another with homework and chores or encouraging one another during challenging tasks. Children will feel more secure as they witness their parents honoring one another with words of thanks and deeds of kindness. Everyone will feel more affirmed and valued. Confidence will increase. One kind deed will inspire another and an atmosphere of honor will begin to blossom.  At the end of the week, we will determine a winner. And, the winner will find their picture on the fridge. The rest of us will honor them as “ruler” for the day. Of course, everyone knows that a great ruler graciously affirms and serves his subjects. Oh my, the game goes on. The pandemonium of honor continues. “Gung-ho Honor”-let the games begin!

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