Spooning Heals ;) – Weekly Challenge

03/26/2011

Dr. Goulston once said, “I have become convinced that our skin has a memory separate from our minds – of good touch, bad touch and no touch.  There is not enough good touch in the world, and too many people walk around settling for no touch, in an effort to avoid bad touch.”

Teaching yoga has taught me quite a bit about reading people.  Sometimes when I walk over to offer a gentle adjustment to a student I can feel them pull away before I even touch them.  They are shying away from the touch and sometimes I won’t push the issue with them, but, offer spoken support instead, but, most of the time, I will continue with offering the adjustment and gentle touch.  I can usually feel this amazing amount of stress and tension initially and then, feel it melt away from them.  They realize that I’m not there to hurt them and that having the support of a teacher can be really nice.  And, a safe place to be.  I’ve even had students come up to me after class, in tears, thanking me because they haven’t been “touched” in a very long time.

We are all connected.  I can feel your stress even if you are trying very hard to hide it and I think a lot of other people can too.  Maybe you don’t realize what you are feeling is someone else’s stress… maybe the stress of another country that is suffering… but, we can and we do.

So, to counteract some of the negativity going on in the world today, I thought it might be good to work on something we all could use more of… HUGS! (I love hugs)

Health.com (http://www.health.com/health/) has a great article on hugging it out and I will include their suggestions in this blog 🙂  There is so much research on hugging and what happens and even shirts that you can buy that will simulate hugging!  I haven’t tried it myself, I’m not sure I want my shirt to be that tight.  I’d hate to get the urge to get away from the ‘hugging shirt’ in the middle of the mall.  News Flash:  “Crazy Women Strips Down to Her Bra While Stomping On Shirt Yelling ‘NO MORE HUGGING!!’.”  Yeah…..

Getting a hug from someone you care about (even a little) feels good 🙂  It releases cortisol and lowers blood pressure.  Fights anxiety and encourages happiness and a sense of calm.  So, just what can a hug or gentle touch do for you, let’s find out 🙂

Get a rubdown
Anyone who’s ever gotten a massage — even a quickie at a mall kiosk — knows that it helps you unwind. That’s not just a mental sensation: Getting massaged causes muscles to unclench, a racing heart rate to slow, heightened blood pressure to fall, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol to drop. In that relaxed state, your body is able to regroup and recharge. One happy result: a more robust immune system.
“Cortisol suppresses the immune response,” explains Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune response.”
Recently, researchers measured immune function in healthy adults who got either a 45-minute Swedish massage or 45 minutes of lighter touch. The massaged group had substantially more white blood cells — including natural killer cells, which help the body fight viruses and other pathogens — and fewer types of inflammatory cytokines associated with autoimmune diseases.

Hug it out
The act of embracing floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other, lowers cortisol levels, and reduces stress. Women who get more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates, according to research done at the University of North Carolina.
But a hug from anyone you’re close to works, too. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison tested that when they analyzed stress levels among volunteers giving a presentation. Afterward, participants who got hugs from their moms saw decreases in cortisol levels an hour after the presentation.

Hold hands with your honey
Twining your fingers together with your one-and-only is enormously calming. James Coan, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, discovered this when he administered functional MRIs to 16 married women while telling them they might experience a mild shock.
The resulting anxiety caused the images of their brain activity to light up like Christmas trees. But when the women held hands with one of the experimenters, that stress response subsided — and when they held hands with their husbands, it really quieted down. “There was a qualitative shift in the number of regions in the brain that just weren’t reacting anymore to the threat cue,” Coan says.
Even more intriguing: When you’re in a happy relationship, clasping hands reduces stress-related activity in a brain area called the hypothalamus — which lowers the levels of cortisol coursing through your system — as well as in the part of the brain that registers pain, which actually helps keep you from feeling it as much.

Have sex
No surprise — after all, lovemaking involves total-body contact. All that skin-to-skin stroking (not to mention orgasm!) floods us with oxytocin and feel-good endorphins that do wondrous things for our emotional well-being.
Regular sex also does the physical body good, possibly even preventing us from getting sick as often. People who had sex once or twice a week had 30 percent more infection-fighting immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva than those who didn’t do the deed as often, according to a study done at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Not partnered up? Solo sex counts, too: At least one study links masturbation with lower risk of depression.

Cuddle up with your pet
If you’re a pet owner, you’ve no doubt noticed you’re less tense when scratching your animal behind the ears. In fact, research shows that people’s blood pressure drops when they pet dogs, particularly if it’s a dog they know and love. Dog petting has also been shown to improve immune function and ease pain, or at least the perception of it.
“You’re focusing on the animal, not on you, so your mind isn’t able to ruminate about the pain,” explains Brad Lichtenstein, a naturopathic physician and assistant professor in the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University in Seattle. (Experts say snuggling with any furry pet should be just as soothing.)
So don’t resist when your pet curls up with you — spending quality time together may be just what the doctor ordered.

*And, as always a word of warning:  If you are trying to hug someone and they are beating at you furiously or dialing 911… please let go.  Let’s stick to hugging and touching people we know who we know who might even give you one back 🙂

For More on Hugging:

Psychology Today ‘The Art of Hugging’:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/debunking-myths-the-mind/201007/the-art-hugging

How To Hug:  http://www.wikihow.com/Hug

NYTimes ‘For Teenagers, Hello Means “How About a Hug”:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/style/28hugs.html

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