A brief hug and handholding with a partner reduced
the harmful effects of stress.
Stress Takes it Toll. Stress is not good for the body, the mind or social relationships. It contributes to hypertension and raises the level of harmful hormones. It makes us more closed-minded and more reactive. It makes us irritable and less pleasant to be around.
Everyday Ways to Adapt. Our reality is that we live in a fast-paced and uncertain world where it is nearly impossible to avoid stressful situations. The question is “how can we counteract the impact?” The ideal is to help our mind and body deal with stress and to build its own resources to reduce the impact. Hugging a loved one is a simple way to make this happen. Also, it is easy to do on a regular basis, feels good, has no side effects and is free.
An Immediate Impact. Stress can be defused. If we are asked to discuss a recent event that made us angry or stressed, blood pressure and heart rate typically rise. In one study, these stressful reactions were significantly less in couples that hugged and held hands for 10 minutes before the discussion. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention…”
Longer Term. In another study, married couples were assigned to a control group or participated in a four-week program involving “warm touching” between spouses. The impact of warm touching resulted in higher levels of salivary oxytocin, a positive way the body combats stress. It also resulted in lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower blood pressure. These results happened after only four weeks of doing something that feels good.
Just Spouses? The bottom-line is hugging and touching with spouses or loved ones have a beneficial influence on multiple stress sensitive systems in the body. There is some evidence that touching among friends works but does not produce as much stress reduction. Not to fret if you are not living with a partner or close family member, other forms of everyday social interaction like smiling and eye contact can have a beneficial effect. (See Everyday Ways under Blogs)
Staying Healthy. The World Health Organization says,
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.
At Living55 plus we are on the lookout for everyday ways to promote this form of health and will share our insights and discoveries. Please use the comments to share any related information you come across. Also, share your stories of how health promotion can become a regular everyday activity.