Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - Joanne is a neuro-psy­chother­a­pist and re­la­tion­ship spe­cial­ist at The Con­fi­dante Coun­selling. Email [email protected]­con­fi­dan­te­coun­ or visit www.sun­shinecoast­coun­

It’s December! Brace your­self folks. For the vast ma­jor­ity, it means fam­i­lies, food, Christ­mas presents … and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Baby hugs. Grand­par­ent hugs. It’s just hug sea­son, all the way through. For some of us, this is great! Most peo­ple like hug­ging. My clients even hug me. Some like longer hugs, some like shorter. Some like firm bear hugs, oth­ers like the ac­com­pa­nied air kiss, or the op­po­site of that. But in what­ever their shape or form, the gen­eral con­sen­sus is that hugs are fan­tas­tic. Then there are the other peo­ple. Those who dis­like hugs, or ac­tively avoid them. We all know one. Maybe we are one. For them, the Christ­mas sea­son is one unend­ing night­mare of in­vaded per­sonal space and drool­ing in­fants. Whether you love them or hate them, hugs are a part of our lives. It turns out that they’re more than a pleas­ant/an­noy­ing tra­di­tional greet­ing or show of af­fec­tion! Since you’re go­ing to be giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing a lot more of them in the very near fu­ture, here are some in­ter­est­ing rea­sons why hug­ging peo­ple is not only pleas­ant, but good for your health. Love, thy name is oxy­tocin! Well, kind of. Feel­ings of love are cre­ated through a cock­tail of chem­i­cals and hor­mones in the brain and body. One of the big ones is oxy­tocin. Oxy­tocin makes you feel good and makes you con­nected with other peo­ple. Guess what? Hugs re­lease oxy­tocin. The ex­act length you need to hug some­one to en­joy a shot of the said oxy­tocin seems to vary from five to seven sec­onds, so I like to split the dif­fer­ence and just say six. Af­ter a nice, six-sec­ond hug, your body re­leases some feel-good hor­mones and you feel more con­nected to the per­son you just held. Even if we don’t know the sci­ence be­hind it, we in­tu­itively know that phys­i­cal close­ness makes us feel more con­nected. The role of oxy­tocin is com­plex but there’s in­creas­ing ev­i­dence to prove other health ben­e­fits: Boosts the im­mune sys­tem: The pres­ence of oxy­tocin in­creases other hor­mones which fight off in­fec­tion. Sim­ply by feel­ing love and con­nec­tion with your fel­low hu­man be­ings, you are bet­ter at fight­ing off dis­eases. Re­lieves pain: Got a headache? Give some­one a hug! It might not be quite as ef­fec­tive as a Panadol, but could well de­crease your over­all dis­com­fort. Low­ers the risk of heart disease: Oxy­tocin can help re­duce blood pres­sure, which in turn low­ers the risk of heart disease. Low­ers so­cial anx­i­ety: Those with so­cial anx­i­ety would gen­er­ally con­sider a hug the last thing they want in a so­cial en­vi­ron­ment. It’s prob­a­bly the first thing they should get! A hug at the start of a so­cial event can even make them feel more re­laxed and open, rather than shy and anx­ious. Deep­ens re­la­tion­ships: I spent the last few weeks talk­ing about the dif­fer­ent Love Lan­guages. You’d re­call that for some peo­ple, touch is an in­cred­i­ble way to ex­press and un­der­stand love. Take a moment to hug your part­ner ev­ery time they come home af­ter all those long hours at work. Just six sec­onds out of your day to rest, recharge, and con­nect with your loved one is all you need to help de-stress, relax, and reaf­firm your love. Helps moth­ers bond: Oxy­tocin is re­leased dur­ing child­birth and breast­feed­ing. Not only does it cre­ate strong bonds be­tween adults, it helps cre­ate and strengthen the con­nec­tion be­tween mother and child. The re­lax­ing ele­ment of oxy­tocin also makes breast­feed­ing eas­ier. (I don’t know how as I did not find that easy!) Re­duces stress and helps you sleep bet­ter: Anx­i­ety re­lief, so­cial bond­ing, re­silience to disease – all com­bined lead to a re­duc­tion in your over­all stress lev­els, and im­proved abil­ity to sleep. All from a hug. As Christ­mas draws near, the arms are out and the hugs in-bound, will you feel like run­ning away or turn­ing your cheek? Take a moment to ap­pre­ci­ate all the ben­e­fits your ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic fam­ily mem­ber is about to give you with their warm em­brace.

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