When partners physically acknowledge their significant other throughout the day —especially when they leave and reunite with each other— their relationship benefits a lot. It is through physical proximity, touch, eye gazing, relaxed facial expressions, smiling, the reassuring and comforting prosody of our partner’s voice that we know, from an internal experience, that we are secure with each other and that our world is safe. These acts of attunement help lower the stress level in us and in our partner, hence in our relationship. They add to our bank of “feel good and secure” within our relationship –even when our daily life is rocky at times. They increase our embodied experience of “he’s got my back and she’s my rock”. When these acts of care and attunement are consistent, we are encouraged to move towards our special person because he/she knows, better than anyone else, how to help us feel better when we scrape our knees.
Here are a few of the many benefits of hugging:
- It diminishes the feelings of isolation and loneliness, and makes us feel connected; a mammalian need. This picture makes my point.
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- Hugs increase our levels of oxytocin, a hormone secreted when we feel safe, nurtured and connected. Oxytocin is secreted in greater quantities before, during and after lovemaking. It is responsible for couples wanting to cuddle and gaze in each other’s eyes for hours on end. Oxytocin is a primary hormone mothers are flooded with after giving birth, which makes them totally enamored with and devoted to their babies. This is the hormone which bonds offsprings to their caregivers.
- When people hug for longer periods than the quick ventral bumps many of us socially subscribe to, they increase their serotonin levels. Serotonin is known to elevate our mood, increase our happiness level and our social behaviors. It is also believed to help with digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and dysthymia (a general feeling of “Blah” in life.
- Strong ventral-to-ventral hugs put pressure on many acupuncture points that are linked to important functions necessary for optimal health. Acupuncture points related to our heart (just below the sternum), our digestive system (solar plexus) and immune system (sternum area and lower abdomen) are all stimulated when we hug. This is one more reason to embrace our partners.
- Hugs stimulate our biggest organ, our skin. Skin-to-skin contact increases the parasympathetic branch of our ANS (autonomic nervous system). The branch in charge of the “rest and repair” of our stress management.
Lastly, Virginia Satir (1916-1988) the renowned author on countless books on child psychology wrote: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” The choice is ours. Do we choose to survive, to maintain or to thrive? Couples are in a privileged position where they can support each other to thrive.
C. Nathan Bergeron, LMFT, L.Ac. ©