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The Science of a Hug

Hugging Helps Heal. This is our extremely short and simple philosophy with SRT Therapy.

Soft Stretch Release Techniques is not just about performing physical movements, or techniques to a client’s physical body. It is absolutely NOT about establishing a protocol for applications either. First and foremost, it is about hugging.

Now, you might be asking yourself what exactly does hugging mean in the context of SRT.

An actual hug as you might think of one is a physical embrace between two or more people. It is a physical connection of two or more bodies coming into contact with each other. Besides simply feeling close to someone, a hug offers you a list of health benefits to both your physical body, spiritual body, and the mind.

Scientific evidence has shown the release of a hormone known as oxytocin, that is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream via the pituitary gland, during a sincere hug.

A sincere hug is genuine, and offered with a loving intention behind it. The genuine heartfelt hug produces an influx in the release of oxytocin, which can have a “trickle-down” effect throughout the rest of your body, actually causing a decrease in your heart rate and a drop in stress hormones.

Adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol are released during a stress induced state. These hormones are responsible for saving our lives when faced with immediate danger. But chronic states of stress in modern society have created an ongoing threat and attack on our systems.

Known as the “Fight or Flight” hormone, adrenaline is produced during stressful situations by the adrenal glands. Imagine for a moment you are driving and suddenly the car in front of you slams on their breaks. You react immediately to avoid a collision. Moments later you are safe, traffic is moving again, but your palms are sweating, your heart is racing, and you are breathing rapidly. This is adrenaline, giving you a surge of energy to help save your life if you need to actually fight or flee. However, you’re still sitting in your car and unable to properly use the energy surge.

The quick response to slam on the breaks, bringing you into acute focus and awareness to the danger, is the result of norepinephrine. This hormone shifts blood away from your organs and into your muscles, preparing you to fight for your life, or run for your life. Cortisol takes a little more time to be released, minutes instead of seconds. In an acute catastrophe, cortisol is life saving by maintaining blood pressure levels and fluid balance. The issue with cortisol is that it can get caught in a cycle of continuous release when your mind is spinning with negative thoughts and worry. Our own mind can be our worst enemy, or so that saying goes.

Chronic release of cortisol can lead to anxiety, depression, weight gain, digestion issues, sleep disturbances, memory and concentration issues, heart disease, diabetes, suppressed immune system, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, inflammation, and chronic pain. Pain itself is a stressor on our systems. It has been proven that exaggerated, prolonged, or recurrent activation of a stress response to pain stressors initiate, or exacerbate pain, and disability (Hall et all, 2011). Stress leads to pain. Pain creates more stress. Chronic stress leads to chronic pain.

Oxytocin is a powerful anti-stress hormone. In a case study done in 2011 for postpartum mothers, researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine discovered that higher levels of oxytocin were associated directly with lower cardiovascular and sympathetic nervous system reactivity to stress.

A 2010 study from the Ohio State University showed that couples who had more positive communication behaviors had higher levels of oxytocin and actually healed faster from wounds. There has even been some evidence found that this oxytocin release may actually improve immune function and, wait for it… PAIN TOLERANCE.

There are a long list of studies over the years that correlate directly to improved health benefits via hugging. Oxytocin is part of these healing benefits. This is exactly why SRT is a philosophy. Hugging with the intention to help others heal.

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