In working with people and their relationships with others, I specialize in family relations and their effects on youth. Every day I sit with young people who are struggling to make friends and maintain safe boundaries around others; including parents, daycare providers, teachers and other young people. On a typical day, my younger clients have spent their day hitting, bullying and provoking the people around them to gain physical contact from another human being.
That’s weird isn’t it? These young people are instigating conflicts when ultimately all they really need is a HUG.
“Today, neuroscientists have learned that when humans get emotionally upset, our bodies react to manage the increased energy. These physical reactions bring discomfort at best and at worst are unbearable. What can we do to obtain immediate help when we are distressed so that we don’t have to resort to superficial balms like drugs or psychological mechanisms like repression? What kind of relief is affordable, efficient, effective and nontoxic?
“The answer is touch. Hugs and other forms of nonsexual physical soothing, like hand-holding and head stroking, intervene at the physical level to help the brain and the body calm down from overwhelming states of anxiety, panic and shame.”
For many of us, a hug would cure so much of what ails us: stress, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, loneliness.
A hug or casual embrace has fallen into neglect in our modern, technologically connected world. Even in our intimate households, the familial embrace is on a decline: fewer parents and children snuggling on a couch watching a movie or siblings huddled together over a game. We are literally creating more physical barriers between ourselves as the generations develop. Our advancement has increased our dis-ease.
WE NEED HUGS. Our children and youth need hugs. Our friends and spouses need hugs. I need a hug! You need a hug!
Why? As outlined in Psychology Today, children and even adults who receive a sufficient amount of physical contact through hugs and embraces are more likely to be adventurous when trying new things and creative as they have an increased sense of freedom and safety. Hugs make people nicer and more positive which helps to reduce stress- lower stress results in better overall health. Researchers have discovered that hugs and physical touch decrease elevated blood pressure and alleviate fears. In addition (and we don’t need research to tell us this) hugs just make us feel closer to one another.