Sometimes a hug can make a huge difference to a child who is anxious, sad or upset. A simple hug can help you connect with your child and partner, trigger them to open up and feel less stressed.
How often do you hug? It’s the simplest way to connect and you can learn to hug more.
Hugging is a great way to model affection at home and cuddling with your kid is fun. Have you noticed, they even make these cute noises when you do it? ;-)
Scientists say it’s good for your health too—that cuddling promotes happiness and lowers stress hormones. Physical affection can help the brain, the heart and other body systems.
A hug to keep the doctor away?
Scientists have found out that snuggling comes with amazing benefits. Hugging boosts the “love hormone” oxytocin which in turn reduces feelings of stress, heart rate and blood pressure.
Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana, reports that hand-holding and hugging result in a decrease of the stress hormone cortisol, and that physical touch is highly rewarding.
“A soft touch on the arm makes the orbital frontal cortex light up, just like those other rewarding stimuli. So, touch is a very powerful rewarding stimulus — just like your chocolate that you find in your cupboard at home.”—Matt Hertenstein
Research shows that hugs make us feel connected with others and that it protects us from stress-induced sickness. One study found out that “the more people hugged, the less likely they were to get sick.”
This makes sense to me. I used to be an expert hugger. We used to snuggle so much with my wife that we stopped receiving invitations to social events.
I’m only partly joking, but reality was we kept to ourselves and snuggled at parties to such an extent that friends thought we would prefer to stay at home instead.
Anyway … now with a child and all the busyness I’m less of a hugger and I miss it. I’d love to be like that again (and I don’t care about parties anymore). Most importantly I want to show my son how easy it is to show more affection to the people we love. So, I’m going to take the challenge and hug more this week, you may want to try it too.
Here are two mindful ways you can add more snuggling to your day …
1. The 20-second Mindful Hug Challenge
Try hugging your kid and spouse every day for a full week. Make the hugs long (even if it feels awkward at first) and see how it makes you feel.
Go ahead and go hug your kid or partner. Hug at least for 20 seconds and pay attention to how it makes you feel as you do it. Then ask the “huggee” how it made them feel.
You can do this without telling your child or partner about your experiment. Simply observe how your hugs make you feel and how it affects your loved ones. Do they suddenly light up or want to talk more? Do they seem more at ease?
You might want to include them in the experiment from the get-go and ask them to pay attention to how this added snuggle-time makes them feel. After a week of snuggles have a talk about it. How was it?
2. Mindful Snuggle Meditation
This is a lovely meditation to do with your child!
Put on some soothing music and find a nice place to sit with your child. Sit with your kid in your lap with his back against your belly.
First ask him to pay attention to music or something that you both can observe in front of you.
Maybe you sit at a window and you can guide him to look at whatever happens outside; the trees, sky or the cars driving by.
When your kid is comfortable, tell him that you can both calm down by paying attention to your breath. That you can actually feel your own breath come in and go out.
Tell him that he can start by feeling your breath. Wouldn’t that be fun? Ask him to notice if he can feel your belly as you breath in and out.
Take some slow deep breathes and ask how it feels on his back when your breathe.
Is your belly warm?
Does it go in and out slowly?
Sit like this for a short while and then instruct your child to place his hands on his own tummy. Ask him if he can feel his belly go up and down as he breathes in and out. If it feels hard at first you can take a few deep breaths.
When you’re ready ask your child how it made him feel.
I hope that you enjoyed these ideas. May you be happy and healthy :-)
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend that you read our guide: How To Practice Mindfulness With Children – The Essential Guide
Chris Bergstrom is the co-founder of BlissfulKids.com and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator, and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.