If nothing eases suffering like the human touch, the big squishy grandma hug is the gold standard of human touching; and no matter how old you are, getting lost in a grandma hug soothes the body and the spirit.
Why are hugs so valuable to us? Hugs stimulate our happy hormones (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins) and make us feel good, and self-hugs make us feel good and reduce the intensity of pain by altering our brain’s perception of pain. You don’t even need a person to hug. Bear-hugging a tree stimulates the same happy hugging hormones and being outside adds the spiritual calming and cleansing benefits of nature.
So, in this new world we will be entering into, sharing is no longer caring. How will we get our warm and fuzzies without touching? In addition to physical hugging, you can boost your happiness by:
- Going outside. Just 10-15 minutes of exposure to sunshine is all that is needed to boost endorphins and serotonin levels. Getting 10-15 minutes without sunscreen is needed for your body to generate vitamin D, anything longer and you should protect your skin.
- Busting a move. The joy of a “runner’s high” is caused by surging endorphins, but 30 minutes of sustained aerobic activity also triggers serotonin and dopamine.
- Laughing. Laughter is the best medicine because it boosts endorphins and dopamine; and if you can share the laughter, BOOM, oxytocin boost.
- Eating. The joy of eating boosts dopamine and endorphins, sharing the meal and its preparation boosts oxytocin, and including tryptophan foods boosts serotonin. Oh, and red wine is a good endorphin booster too.
- Listening to or making music. Listening boosts dopamine and serotonin. Making music, dancing, drumming, and singing boost endorphins.
- Pet your pet. Giving your fur babies some extra petting or hugging will boost the oxytocin levels of you and your pet. Just remember the hugging may not be appreciated as much by your pet as by you, so stick to petting if your pet is uncomfortable being restrained in a hug.
This is my neighbor’s cat, BC (Black Cat), who believes we are his back-up plan if he’s not getting enough attention at home. He doesn’t like closed doors. This is his “well open it for me human, I have not snooped the laundry room since yesterday” look. He does like hugs (on his terms of course, after all he is a cat) and seems to know when his humans need them. I’m not sure if he will be happy or sad when the humans can go back to hugging each other.
So what does hugging have to do with dance fitness? Exercise, dancing, singing, and music all boost 3 happy hormones; but my dance fitness classes are like a big squishy grandma hug because we add a generous component of shared laughter, thereby boosting all 4 hormones. BOOM. Here is a hug to hold you until we can dance and laugh together again.