Article ◇Ming Pao by Lei Jingyi
(Hong Kong News) Since the Free Hugs Campaign was launched in 2004, people around the world can see people holding up the Free Hugs cards to convey warmth to strangers.
Hugging symbolizes positive meaning – warmth, comfort, support…. But an epidemic of the century has cut off contact between people. Do you remember when was the last time you hugged someone?
In addition to bringing happiness, hugging can also stimulate the “hug hormone”, which can help stabilize mood, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and even enhance immunity. “Hold yourself” when you need it, and it will help you through uneasy times.
Can a hug every day really keep the doctor away?
Stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain
Before understanding the effects of hugging, first understand why you feel anxious and the discomfort it causes. Chen Yawen, a member of the roster of the Hong Kong Association of Clinical Psychologists and a clinical psychologist, explained that when faced with stress, the amygdala in the brain will monitor the crisis and respond, and send information to the two systems of the body, namely the autonomic nervous system (autonomic nervous system) and endocrine system (endocrine system).
The first message goes to the autonomic nervous system, triggering the “fight or flight” response controlled by the sympathetic nerves. When the sympathetic nerve is active, the body will enter a state of readiness, causing the heartbeat to increase, the pupils to dilate, and even the digestive system to be suppressed, so that energy can be concentrated on the muscles to cope with the crisis.
She said that the second message is transmitted to the endocrine system, which stimulates the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, breaks down proteins in the body, and secretes adrenaline, which speeds up heartbeat and breathing.
Chen Yawen pointed out that long-term anxiety or “thinking too much every day” may be because the amygdala is too sensitive, causing the body to be in a state of tension. And to make the amygdala less sensitive, you need “love”.
“Hugging is a primitive way of expressing love.” She explained that the message of hugging is an emotional connection, and the establishment of interpersonal relationships and emotional communication will stimulate the brain to release oxytocin. This brain transmitter known as the “hug hormone” can reduce the sensitivity of the amygdala, so that the body will not easily enter the state of war. At the same time, it can also suppress the amygdala after a crisis, stabilize emotions, and help the body return to a relaxed state.
Keep the immune system in order
Carnegie Mellon University (Carnegie Mellon University) conducted a study in which 400 adults were exposed to cold viruses and their physical conditions were monitored. It was found that people who hugged more and felt more socially supported had fewer severe symptoms.
She explained that when the sympathetic nervous system and the endocrine system are constantly in a state of readiness, it will cause the immune system to lose balance and may attack its own organs. Because the brain is in a state of tension for a long time, the immune system feels that “this world is very dangerous, even if it encounters the body. Anything that is harmless will want to be beaten away.”
Hugging can help stabilize emotions and prevent the body from being constantly in a state of preparation, so that the immune system can operate in an orderly manner and reduce the chance of germ invasion.
In addition, oxytocin inhibits the amygdala, unleashes the body from the state of readiness, lowers the level of adrenaline, stabilizes breathing and heartbeat, and relaxes the body.
Chronic Stress-Induced Mood Illness
The pace of life of urbanites is fast, and the pressure is surging, but there are good and bad pressures. Chen Yawen explained that the body’s response to stress is originally intended to cope with crises in daily life, and the “fight or flight” response can help deal with acute stress, such as tomorrow’s interview for a new job. “If it is too relaxed, the brain will not be too relaxed.” wide awake”.
The problem is that when the pressure continues, chronic stress is formed, which keeps the brain in a state of tension for a long time, causing chaos in various body systems, such as gastrointestinal discomfort, continuous rapid heartbeat, and sensitive symptoms. Chronic stress may be a factor in mood disorders and can also increase the risk of diseases such as high blood pressure.
Physical touch helps calm emotions
The University of Miami School of Medicine (University of Miami School of Medicine) integrated relevant research from 2001 to 2009 and pointed out that in addition to hugging, other physical contact has the same effect, such as holding hands, patting the back, massage, etc. Chen Yawen agrees that physical contact is good for stabilizing emotions, but emphasizes that who is the target, how strong is it, and how long is the hug varies from person to person, which may be influenced by culture and environment.
Since hugging can have a positive impact on the body, can a daily embrace improve mood?
Chen Yawen said that constant hugging is good, but as long as it is healthy interpersonal contact, “it doesn’t have to be physical contact to feel the connection, maybe just chatting face to face, it will be useful.”
Art and music to ease emotions
Self Hugs to Relieve Anxiety
Hugging can calm the emotions, but how to save yourself when you are alone in anxiety?
Clinical psychologist Chen Yawen suggested, “hug yourself”, in addition to the usual hugging methods, she encouraged to try postures derived from somatic experience: first put the right hand under the left armpit, and then wrap the left hand around the right shoulder ( See photo), hold yourself while focusing on sensations such as breathing, pressure in your arms, and heartbeat, and hold the position until you feel an improvement in your mood.
In addition to self-embracing, she also suggests starting with other senses, such as carrying a calming aromatherapy with you, smelling it when you are upset, or it can help stabilize your emotions at the moment. Plus, music and art activities can help.
Chen said that music can make people feel sympathetic, and feel that someone can help him express his heart; while art can provide an outlet to channel emotions.
Not a substitute for professional treatment
Finally, Chen Yawen reminded that hugging and holding hands are just a relief method and cannot replace professional treatment. When the situation is serious, professional assistance should be sought.
listening to music and dancing
provide emotional support
Hugging can help ease emotions, and music and painting can also relax people.
There are different branches of art therapy. Among them, expressive art therapy also uses non-verbal means, integrating visual arts, music, dance, drama, etc., to provide emotional support for help-seekers.
Expressive art therapist and registered social worker Zhang Wenyin explained that expressive art therapy is a type of psychotherapy, which provides ways of expression other than words to help clients channel their emotions and relieve stress.
The course of treatment is long and short
She pointed out that expressive art therapy does not require deliberate creation, and there is no limit to the form. More importantly, it is to help people express their emotions in the process of enjoying art. For example, hearing a resonant song and crying is also a kind of expression; but compared to listening to songs at home, expressive art therapy focuses on the treatment goals, and the therapist will help the client plan the course of treatment to achieve the goals.
The therapist will first assess and understand the client’s needs, and then discuss appropriate art media and activities together. She pointed out that the process can be roughly divided into four stages: expression, sharing, understanding, and change. Help clients express their emotions first, then share their thoughts, help them understand themselves during the discussion, and finally make changes. Zhang Wenyin said that the treatment process can be long or short, depending on whether each person can apply art in life to help themselves.
You don’t have to be sick to ask for help
“The therapist mainly provides some directions and a comfortable environment to lead the help-seekers to express their emotions.” She said that in daily life, she can also do some artistic activities to ease her emotions, and she does not necessarily seek help when she is sick.
Zhang Wenyin suggested that placing art works that make you feel comfortable at home, such as hanging a landscape painting, playing favorite music, or writing down the thoughts that arise at the moment, can relieve emotions.
When a person starts having thoughts of “if only I disappeared” or “I don’t want to live anymore,” it means they are experiencing emotional distress and may be developing suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
These thoughts are likely to be part of a mood disorder such as depression, behind which is a strong sense of helplessness and hopelessness, leading to the idea that life is meaningless and does not want to live. These feelings of negativity, powerlessness, and hopelessness depress patients in all areas of their lives:
negative self-evaluation of oneself
1/ Unable to achieve the goal:People with depression may feel like they can’t get anything done, and even simple everyday tasks can become difficult, leaving the person feeling worthless and helpless.
2/ Self-criticism:Depressed patients may have negative self-evaluation of themselves, feel that they are useless, incapable of doing anything well, and then feel helpless.
3/ Inability to enjoy life:People with depression may lose interest in life and find no joy in usual activities. This can make patients feel that their lives are worthless and meaningless.
4/ Unable to control emotions:People with depression may feel unable to control their emotions. Negative emotions such as lowness and hopelessness are constantly coming up in the mind, resulting in a sense of helplessness.
5/ Unable to get help:People with depression may feel that they can’t get help, and even seeking professional treatment may not alleviate the problem, leaving the patient feeling unable to get out of the situation, becoming hopeless, and even refusing to seek medical treatment.
The negative thoughts of patients with depression are often not able to be changed by themselves. These thinking patterns make the patient face the world from a pessimistic perspective, resulting in more helpless and negative feelings, until for a moment, the patient is overwhelmed by these feelings and will have the idea of not wanting to live anymore.
Sustained pressure and lack of support make it difficult to recover
Why do some depression patients remain unsatisfactory after treatment? The success of depression treatment is influenced by many factors. Ongoing stress, personal background and experience, etc. may also have an impact on the effectiveness of treatment.
1/ Sustained pressure:Treatment for depression takes time and patience, but if a patient still faces constant stress during treatment, it can negatively affect treatment.
2/ Personal background and experience:Worldview, values, trust in people and self-worth are all influenced by personal background and experiences. These factors may cause patients to have continuous stress. For example, some patients have difficulty trusting others, and they are prone to stress in daily interpersonal interactions, which in turn affects their emotions.
3/ Patients’ beliefs and expectations about treatment also affect treatment outcomes:If the patient is skeptical or does not have enough confidence in the treatment, it may negatively affect the treatment; conversely, if the patient is confident in the treatment and expects the treatment to bring positive results, it is possible to recover faster.
4/ Social support:This refers to support and care from family, friends, colleagues, etc. Lack of social support may negatively affect treatment. Situations such as living alone and unsatisfactory marital status can make patients feel isolated and helpless, which in turn makes depression persistent.
Difficult to deal with emotional ups and downs
Depression is very common. Although the causes of each person’s illness are different, it is not easy to face the emotional ups and downs. At this time, psychiatrists can accompany patients through difficulties, and relieve symptoms as soon as possible with the assistance of drugs, so that patients can enjoy life again.
Therefore, if you find yourself feeling that life is meaningless, don’t ignore it. You should seek help as soon as possible to avoid further deterioration of the situation.