You know that soothing, warm, loving feeling you get inside when you hug someone close? That’s Oxytocin. It’s a hormone released in the body and brain in response to affectionate touch, hugs, and breastfeeding. In fact, oxytocin is sometimes referred to as "the bonding hormone," "the cuddle hormone," or even "the love hormone." Not only does it feel really good when it’s released into our system, it’s REALLY, REALLY good for our physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Oxytocin (think affectionate touch and hugging):
· Promotes feelings of calm and nurturance
· Promotes feelings of trust, security, and closeness
· Promotes maternal behavior and infant bonding (and these help
children form healthier relationships later in life)
· Enhances positive family and social bonding
· Counteracts stress
· Lowers blood pressure
· And helps to regulate sleep patterns
And make sure you give your loved ones what I call “belly hugs.” If you haven’t already, begin to notice the difference between the kind of hug that only allows touching between our shoulders and upper torsos, and the kind of hug where our chests and bellies touch. That’s an oxytocin hug. Pull them close, soften your belly, let your breathing be slow, full, and relaxed, and imagine your presence reaching out beyond the perceived boundaries of your body to embrace them completely in a womb-like experience. (Love is sooo good)
I’ve also found hugs and affectionate touch to be a beautiful meditation practice. I slow down just enough to drop out of my auto-pilot mode, immerse myself in the simplicity of the moment, and allow the sensory experience to completely fill my conscious awareness. In doing so, there’s no more room in my mind for to-do-lists, worries, and stressful thoughts. Time seems to stand still and it’s just me, my loved one, and the miracle and aliveness of this precious moment. It’s a sacred pause – and there’s nothing better than letting the stillness of those moments fill my heart, my mind, and my senses.
You can practice this kind of meditation while you’re breastfeeding, changing a diaper, bathing them, dressing them, holding hands with them, carrying them, giving them piggy-back-rides, tickling them, etc. Engage your senses. Breathe them in when you’re close together. Continually let go of your thoughts and daydreams and literally come to your senses.
They tell me that there’s a time coming when my soon-to-be teenage daughters won’t want to be hugged as much. I don’t believe it, but just in case they’re right, I’m gettin’ in a healthy dose every day. You?
We’ll talk about these and other subjects at our next Mindful Parenting Group on Tuesday, April 26th at 6:30 p.m.
Until then, make sure you check out our collection of mindful parenting resources and monthly blog at www.whyimeditate.com/mindful-parenting.html