Tag Archive for physical affection

The Heartbeat of a Hug

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!

Is Your Marriage Like Chocolate Cake Without Icing?

Research published from Binghamton University has verified a secret ingredient of a stronger marriage. Well…it not really such a secret. Many people know about it without ever reading the research. They would consider it common sense, a “given.” So, maybe it’s not such a secret but…well, let me just tell you about the study and what it suggests.

The researchers of this study included 184 couples over the age of 18 years in an exploration of the connection between attachment style, touch satisfaction, and marital satisfaction. Not surprisingly, they found a strong association between non-sexual physical affection and a satisfying, strong marriage. Non-sexual physical affection included things like cuddling, holding hands, and hugging.

As always, there was a caveat and I found it extremely interesting. Non-sexual physical affection had a different meaning and impact for men and women. For men, the presence of non-sexual physical affection was associated with an increase in marital satisfaction. In other words, physical affection was a positive contribution to the marriage, “the icing on the cake.”

For women, however, the lack of non-sexual physical affection was associated with relationship dissatisfaction. Its presence did not necessary create greater satisfaction. Non-sexual physical affection was an essential, expected ingredient for marital satisfaction. The lack of it was a negative and resulted in a less satisfying relationship. In other words, women want non-sexual physical affection as a basic ingredient for creating a satisfying relationship.  

As I said, non-sexual physical affection is a “not-so-surprising ingredient of a solid marriage.” What is surprising is how many couples leave this ingredient out of their marriage and so never enjoy a fully satisfying relationship. According to this research, leaving the snuggle and the hug out of your marriage is like enjoying a chocolate cake without the icing (my favorite part by the way) for men.

For women, having a marriage without the snuggles, hugs, or holding of hands is like trying to eat a chocolate cake made without any sugar or sweetener; you can’t even enjoy it.

So, reach out and hold your spouse’s hand while you drive down the road or walk around the block. Cuddle up on the couch to talk, watch TV, or listen to the radio. Give several random hugs throughout the day. Fill your day with acts of non-sexual physical affection. It is a crucial ingredient to your happy marriage. (For more on the benefit of physical touch in your marriage read Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)

What Your Child, My Child… Every Child Needs!

Schools continue to struggle to determine exactly how to start this school year. Parents and school districts struggle to determine how to balance safety, economic needs, and educational needs during this time. Sports remain an issue of debate. Will school sports’ teams compete or wait until the pandemic is resolved to enjoy competition? While all these decisions remain unresolved, life has become unpredictable for our families and our children. A lack of predictability will create a sense of insecurity in our children; and, insecurity contributes to negative behaviors and even health issues in our children’s lives. So, we need to find ways to help our children feel safe and secure even during the unpredictable nature of our world right now. How can parents do this? Here are 5 things you can do every day to get you started.

  1. Listen. Give your children the opportunity to be heard. Get curious about their emotions, challenges, grievances, and fears. Strive to understand what lies under their misbehaviors (Read Misbehavior: A Call for Love? to learn more) rather than lecture and reprimand. As we listen and understand, our children will feel more secure. They will become calmer and more able to problem-solve as well.
  2. Establish daily rituals. Rituals help to build daily predictability that will contribute to our children’s sense of security. They also provide opportunities to talk and build deeper, more intimate relationships (Is Your Family Like a Scene from RV? Try Rituals).  Rituals don’t have to be complicated. You can build them into your daily life. For instance, rituals might include eating a meal together, reading together at bedtime, establishing a 20-minute conversation time each day, having a puzzle you work on each day.
  3. Invest in your relationship with your children’s other parent. A strong, healthy marriage contributes to a child’s sense of security. Let your children bear witness to your love for one another.
  4. Spend time with your children. Children spell love “T.I.M.E.” Time is the currency of love and security for your children. When they know you will put down your cell phone, postpone a job for a moment to talk, or make time to engage with them, your children learn you value them and care enough to keep them safe. Make time for your children. (How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children.)
  5. Share healthy physical affection. Give a hug. Put your arm around your children. Wrestle. Healthy physical affection increases our sense of connection and an increased sense of connection makes us feel secure. Give your children a hug! (Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)

I’m sure there are more ways to help your children feel secure during this time of unpredictability. But, these five will give a great start. What ways would you add?

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?
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