The Importance of Hugs

 

I am a hugger.   Hugging, to me, is a comfort to hurting people and  a reaction to express understand & caring.  Some people are not huggers and may have different opinions.  Contrary to the old wives’ tales’ from past generations who believed that responding quickly to baby crying by picking up and holding will “spoil” a baby. Instead, babies who are held and comforted when they need it during the first six months of life tend to be more secure and confident as toddlers and older children.

I remember from psychology class that back when babies who did not have mothering had caregivers instead in hospitals or orphanges.  These caregivers  would go in to feed them,  bathe them and change their diapers, but they would do nothing else.   Later, I read that  the caregivers had been instructed not to look at or touch the babies more than was necessary, and they never spoke to them. All their physical needs were attended to scrupulously.   The environment was kept sterile; the babies were never ill.  However, about half of the babies had died at that point, at least two more died even after being rescued and brought into a more normal environment. There was no physiological cause for the babies’ deaths; they were all physically very healthy. Before each baby died, there was a period where they would stop their attempted ‘wording’, and just stop moving, never cry or change expression. Death would follow shortly. The babies who had “given up” before being rescued died in the same manner, even though they had been removed from the experimental conditions.The conclusion was that nurturing is actually a very vital need in humans, as well  as with  animals.

In the  Harlow experiments on rhesus monkeys, he separated infant monkeys from their mothers a few hours after birth, then arranged for the young animals to be “raised” by two kinds of surrogate monkey mother machines, both equipped to dispense milk. One mother was made out of bare wire mesh. The other was a wire mother covered with soft terry cloth. Separated baby monkeys clung to the terry cloth surrogates, even when their physical nourishment came from bottles mounted on the bare wire mothers. This suggested that infant love was no simple response to the satisfaction of physiological needs.

What does hugging do for humans?  Hugging reduces the risk of heart diseases.   Hugging calms and reduces stress.  Hugging is good for your relationship.   It increases bonding by releasing oxytocin from our brain and helps relaxation and feelings of intimacy & commitment.    When we hug someone, we are showing our love and joy in a special way without words.

Hugging can relieve stress by releasing tension in the body.  It can increase understanding and empathy and can decrease depression.   Hugging is a mood elevator (by increased serotonin and endorphins) and can boost your self-esteem.   Hugging someone in grief can be more beneficial than words.   All these factors can boost one’s immunity.

Hug someone you haven’t hugged in a long time – and keep hugging those you hug often.   If there is no one around, hug a tree – it may bloom better for you.

Happy New Year and sending you e-hugs from me.

Marie Coppola  Revised January 2019