As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, it may feel like hugs are a thing of the past. Sometimes a simple hug is all we crave during difficult times! Isolation and lack of human connection are part of what makes the pandemic so difficult. Human touch and connection is as basic as any human need. Evidence shows that hugs don’t just make us feel good but an affectionate squeeze can actually be good for your health!
“Research shows that hugs can be healthy,” says psychologist Joe Rock, PsyD. “Hugs cause a decrease in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and other research indicates that hugs decrease your blood pressure and heart rate in stressful situations,” he adds.
Research has also found that giving and receiving hugs can actually strengthen your immune system.
Dr. Rock says hugging seems to have a therapeutic effect. That’s because your brain has specific pathways created to detect human touch.
“We can detach ourselves from people and get locked up in our own world,” he says. “Just the physical act of hugging someone really does connect us with them and lets down some of our defenses.”
How can we safely give and receive affection during the pandemic?
Hugging can actually raise the level of oxytocin or “feel good” chemical in your brain. Connecting — in whatever way we can — may be just just what we need right now! However, we have to find a safe balance with being distanced and connected to give and receive affection while also following mask and social distancing guidelines.
Here are some safe ways to to share some warm fuzzy feelings:
- Hug a pet: Numerous studies have shown therapeutic relationships between humans and pets.
- Hug a loved one in your household: You’re already sharing germs with those in your household. Now may be a perfect time to hug members of your household more often.
- Invest in a body pillow: It might not be exactly the same as spooning with a loved one, but hugging a pillow can be comforting. And some research shows body pillows can be good for alleviating back pain, helping pregnant women find a comfy sleeping position, and even reducing snoring.
- Connect with loved ones online: Technology can help us feel connected even if we are apart. FaceTime and Zoom for instance, can help you connect with loved ones who may be down the road or states apart. These apps have helped many of us weather the coronavirus storm and are an easy way to check in and connect with friends and family from the safe comfort of your home.
- Self-care during quarantine: Use the extra time to pamper yourself or start a new self-care routine. Facials, self massage, stretching, and connecting with an online class like exercise or yoga programs offer many options for taking care of yourself while staying safe. Curling up with a good book and allowing yourself to rest is a great way to connect with yourself from a place of care.
- Mask up and head out: If you crave the close proximity of friends, do so safely. Wash your hands well, don your favorite mask, and meet a friend for a socially distant coffee date with coffees to-go and walk around your favorite park, for instance.
With some creativity, and a little planning, we can safely share affection with those who are important to us. Staying connected to those we love is important for our mental and physical health. How will you keep try to remain connect to friends and family in a safe way?
SOURCE: Cleveland Clinic