Have you heard about Oxytocin? No it's not the latest illegal street drug fad, it's actually an amazing chemical in our bodies that lights up our souls when we receive physical affection. I first read about Oxytocin maybe ten years ago or more now. I remember learning that the human body needs something like 11 physical touches a day to maintain well-being.
After I read that I started hugging, squeezing, patting and grabbing friends hands more often. That sounds a little crazy but I mean this in the most gentle, loving way and only with people I knew well and knew were comfortable with it. I have not ever freaked anyone out by doing this, I promise. I have often told close friends, "Make sure you're giving and getting your 11 touches today!"
I've also try to remember this when I am feeling out of sorts. It's amazing how much a few minutes of hugs and cuddling can change your entire worldview! I am lucky to have a cozy little bug of a kiddo in our home so the hugs are plentiful and always available even when grownups seem busy.
I heard on the radio this past week that hugging for 20 seconds is about the magic number to get the Oxytocin flowing in the body. So The Bug and I have been practicing 20 second hugs and it's amazing how the good, warm cozies start flowing right about at the 20 second mark. We've been sneaking in 20 second hugs on Daddy too....men can be a little impatient with the hugs sometimes, but they DEFINITELY need them too. Especially when they live in a world where there is much less friendly and familial physical affection expressed.
We are loving our Oxytocin hugs and I think it's definitely a great way to start and end the day along with any time during the day. I've changed up our morning routine by mentioning how eager I am to give and get a hug first thing in the morning. Now instead of sending marching orders to "hurry things up" down our staircase I am saying, "Boy, I can't wait to have our first hug of the day!" It sounds amazingly sweeter than, "You need to HURRY! Are you still in bed?" and other such related sentences. Now she quickly comes from her room up the stairs and we get that wonderful first hug in. I think that definitely starts our day off and guides our morning with sweetness!
As I was thinking about writing this post I remembered too that our family is also getting the fabulous additional health and wellness benefits of having a fantastic and loving dog in our home. He's just the best thing ever. The biggest, heaviest, most gentle dog you'll ever meet. He's a lover and the best as giving great hugs and kisses. He's concerned for everyone's welfare, checks on each family member when we return home and always wants to be nearby. He's a fantastic traveler and companion in every way -- and how lucky we are that he provides those great benefits of having a pet too. Here's a link to six benefits you gain from a pet, including lower blood pressure, stress relief and less feelings of loneliness! Awesome benefits!
This is just one of the reasons that every time I pray I ask Heavenly Father to give our dog a long and healthy life. I must make a note here on pet ownership. Our dog is highly trained service dog and this training overall makes our life a lot easier. He doesn't tear things up, he pees with his leg down in a very gentlemanly manner, and follows commands very well. Life with a well-trained dog allows you to enjoy your pet, rather than it being a giant irritation.
I have become a very big advocate for a highly trained family dog because I think this gives the pet a better chance of staying with the family. It is actually less work and cost to do a ton of training in the beginning than deal with all the headaches and destruction that come from poorly behaved dogs. I see too many people get dogs because they are cute and then get rid of them after little training and a lot of frustration or when the kids get bored with the dog. A poorly trained pet, along with poor petcare maintenance and management make for a miserable life for both family and pet.
We know a dog that was begged and begged for by the family's children and now that they are teenagers and have no interest in the dog, she has been forced to live alone outside, with very little affection and is just pushed aside, overweight and sad. These types of stories break my heart for the pet. Spend a lot of time training your dog and you will have a much better experience.
Along with that, keep your pet living a disciplined life. Feed it high quality, healthy food, don't use snacks to train it and try to avoid snacks in general - most of them have ingredients that are poor quality and not good for pets. Groom and care for it (brush it daily), have a kennel and/or bed space for it, don't feed it from the table or help it develop other really bad habits that will annoy you in the future and make life less manageable around the house. Set a precedent for good behavior in the beginning and with some maintenance life will be sweet. .In short don't just get a dog and let it run wild.
Buy them chew toys (good quality without chemicals) so that they have something to gnaw on. Give them lots of outdoor time, runs at the park, game playing and things that will excite their spirits and keep them healthy and happy.
If you want more information, talk to your vet, groomer or local dog trainer....or contact me and I'll put you in touch with my husband who learned to do the training for our dog and is very experienced with pets. It's thanks to him that our life with a giant dog is so simple and sweet - and the fact that we got the best angel dog ever! We had looked at a few dogs from photos and we just didn't feel "it" until we saw a photo of this baby German Shepherd with long, gangly legs and gigantic bat-like ears jutting out the top of his little puppy kennel. We all felt it and my husband went and picked him up and he's been the most beloved dog and friend every day since then.
Love and affection from both humans and our dear pets make life sweet and help us feel more balanced and healthy. Sure we can take vitamins, get a regular physical, and all that stuff is important, but aren't hugging, cuddling, getting a massage and having a super awesome pet so much more fun? Do you have family hugging traditions? Do you have a super awesome pet and if so, how has your pet improved your well-being?