From the moment a baby is born, he craves human contact.
In a study conducted at Duke University, researchers observed infants around 8 months old along with their mothers, specifically watching for the style and intensity of maternal affection. Those babies were followed into adulthood and interviewed at age 34 regarding their emotional health.
What they found was “that early nurturing and warmth [had] long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood.”
Interestingly, the children whose mothers expressed “normal to extravagant” levels of affection had the lowest anxiety levels and emotional resilience as adults. And today, while mental health concerns are at an all-time high, it’s worth seeking out an extra hug or two each day.
So, what it is about human touch that makes such a difference for our mental and emotional health?
Oxytocin plays a big role in why a hug is such a powerful catalyst for lasting happiness.
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The hormone is known to build trust, combat depression, and increase empathy and generosity. All things on the basic list of “how to live a happy life.”
Unsurprisingly, the opposite of all this is also true. Lack of affection—and in the extreme, abuse—can lead to many varied multi-system health risks.
So where does that leave you and your kids?
Well, hopefully in a meaningful embrace, multiple times per day.
Some experts say that we need at least four hugs a day, just to survive. Others suggest 17 for optimal health benefits.
No matter how many you’re able to fit in, it looks only good things can come from reaching out to your kiddos for just one more hug today.