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Stymied by how to convert long chapters into short blog posts, it’s been ages since I posted from the new book I’m writing. (If  you’re new to SPEL, pop over here first for the Introduction.) The answer: EXCERPTS. So here’s the first from the chapter “Take Care of your Temple.”

On Kissing, Cuddling, & Tapping into Your Inner Pharmacy

Reach Out & Touch Someone

Literally.

Show some love.

The more touch-y,  feel-y the better.

Kiss, hug, or cuddle someone (pooches & putty tats count).

Photo: Katie Waller

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m an inveterate hugger – and not just because I’m 5’ 3” (if you round up, which I hope you do) and always only one hug away from becoming airborne.

 

I’ll take any excuse to show someone dear to me that I love them, but derive lesser satisfaction from perfunctory displays of affection. So when you see me, do try to shake my hand or hug me like you mean it. And be forewarned, it’s not unusual for me to request a do-over after a limp handshake or half-hearted hug.

 

Now you non-demonstrative types who eschew displays of affection, roll your eyes if you must, but then hear me out. Your biochemistry is hardwired for connection too. We’re not just talking warm and fuzzy here, but irrefutable science.

 

No matter how big and bad you may be you still have a basic need for human touch even if it comes in the he-man version of chest-thumpin’ and butt-slappin’.

 

Humans crave physical connection by nature. Our endocrine systems were designed to release a cascade of positive pleasure chemicals whenever we give or receive a caring touch.

 

 

 

 

 

One can never underestimate the biology and chemistry of love. I once heard of a therapist who “prescribed” one hour of cuddling a night (presumably while sitting on the couch watching TV) for one whole year to someone who was undergoing treatment for addiction.

 

It makes sense. A regular regimen of hugging triggers the release of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin – a potent chemical brew if there ever was one.

 

 

 

Love, and its particular neurochemistry, can transport us back

to the earliest joys of childhood.

 

Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.

 

 

 

(Apparently I could benefit from the same prescription.  I thought I had my addiction under control. Really, I did. Until my doctor, while looking at me as he would any other deeply troubled soul, said, “Ms. O’Krepki, your blood seems to be composed entirely of lemon Noosa yogurt." But I digress.)

 

According to researchers, children who are hugged often end up growing a 10% larger hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and stress response.  They are also less likely to develop depression as they mature.

 

And according to neurologists, the more we connect with others – on even the smallest physical level– the happier we’ll be. Even a handshake or a pat on the back lights up the reward center in the central nervous system.

 

Sex, hugs, cuddling, hand-holding, and even a kiss before you dash out the door in the morning pay bigger dividends toward happiness (& a more loving relationship) than you may have at first suspected.

Love Potion #9

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid & durable happiness there is in our lives.

 

C.S. Lewis

 

When snuggling increases oxytocin (the comfort & bonding hormone) levels in the brain, it releases endorphins, alleviates depression, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), & stimulates the vagus nerve, effectively lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels.

 

So nestle & nuzzle for your health today.

 

Don’t let busy-ness pull rank on your canoodling. Swap some nose-to-the-grindstone for some Eskimo kisses. (Oh dear, I’m pretty sure the term Eskimo kisses has become politically incorrect since I was a kid. I mean no disrespect but “Inuit kisses” just doesn’t have the same ring.)

 

Get in some hand-holding or high-quality spooning with your spouse, your kids, your pet, or your little niece. Cuddle a baby. Receive a reassuring hug or offer a warm embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who knows you may end-up plucking the heartstrings of even the most reluctant romantic?

 

And let’s not forget about the granddaddy touch of them all: MASSAGE.

 

Unadulterated bliss. Sheer euphoria.

 

Who can deny the benefits of the pour-me-into my shoes, jellied-leg aftermath of a long massage?

 

The lights are low. The music soft. The temperature of the room so perfect, you can’t feel the air.

 

Pampered. Relaxed. Thoughts wandering peacefully.

 

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the increased circulation that comes with massage speeds the removal of waste & toxic by-products of cellular activity & provides increased nutrients & oxygen to each cell.

 

During massage, the body also releases oxytocin—aka the “bliss” hormone and raises endorphins—the body’s natural pain killers—and dopamine—the “feel-good” hormone.

 

So, whether you go for the poshed-up version with a pre-steam in the sauna & fluffy towels scented with essential oils or you trade back-rub favors with your partner or pal, few things equal the stress-busting, pressure-relieving, muscle-relaxing, immune-boosting, mind-calming effects of human touch.

 

And according to neurologists, in order to reap the benefits, it doesn’t matter if you’re the toucher or the touchee. So, ask someone for a massage today.

 

For their sake, of course.

 

This is your brain on hugs. Be someone’s main squeeze.

Zeal

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It's Happy in Here (TM) (Series) |  How to Be Happy  22 Tips to Everyday Bliss  by Cindy O'Krepki  Published by Words That Live On, LLC © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

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