The Perfect Holiday Gift: Free and Backed by Science

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Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Look no further. I’ve got it right here. And if you’re going through a hard time, or fighting with a partner, or feeling especially stressed out, this is just the gift you need. It can make you happier and regulate your nervous system. Oh, and it’s free. Totally free. No strings attached. No shipping, no fees, no taxes.

So what is this magical gift?

Hugs. For real. Don’t laugh. I’m serious.

Hugs may sound silly, but they are far from it. When you give a hug, your body releases oxytocin which has a calming effect on your central nervous system. Studies suggest that hugs help you regulate when you are feeling stressed and anxious. Additionally, hugs can stimulate serotonin levels in the brain leaving you feeling happier.

When someone you care about is disregulated or upset, consider leaning in and offering a hug. See what happens. And be generous with your hugs. The pat on the back is not a hug. Please don’t call that a hug. It’s a pat on the back.

Hug tight and hold on for longer than you normally would. Try thirty seconds. Try a minute. You might be surprised by how calming a good long hug can be. The world would be a better place if we hugged more. We’d be calmer, we’d be more reasonable, we might even be happier.

When I work with couples, I sometimes recommend hugs as a way to break difficult relationship patterns. Try it — when your partner is making you crazy and you want to yell at them, try hugging them instead and see what happens.

And if you don’t have a significant other to hug, that’s okay. Hug a friend. Hug a child. Hug a family member. Hug someone else who needs a hug.

Especially this time of year, no matter what you’re going through, you could probably use a hug. And the person you’re hugging probably could too. Give the gift of autonomic regulation — it’s kind and it’s free.

So hug more. Hug often. See what happens.

Make the world a better place, one hug at a time.

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