^There are many occasions when we feel disconnected and in
desperate need of comfort, yet something as simple as a hug can
engulf us with reassurance and feelings of warmth.
At the times when we experience low mood, anxiety, loneliness and
depression, the stress hormone cortisol, naturally secreted from the
adrenal glands and used as part of the flight or fight mechanism is
being produced in elevated quantities, increasing blood pressure and
leading to those twitchy, irritable, upset feelings.
When we are touched in a non-threatening, nurturing, favourable way,
through hugging or other tactile contacts, our sensory nerve endings
are stimulated and register messages in the brain through the central
nervous system leading to a torrent of hormones and 'feel good'
chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin
being released throughout our body bringing about a multitude of
Endorphins enhance the immune system, relieve pain and reduce
stress; dopamine induces pleasure and serenity; serotonin reduces
depressive and aggressive feelings by promoting a sense of wellbeing,
whilst oxytocin is known as the 'connection hormone' promotes a warm
fuzzy feeling of contentment. Whilst each of these hormones offers
necessary benefits to the body, oxytocin produces profound effects up
and beyond the others.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus section of the brain and
transferred to the pituitary gland where it is released into the bloodstream. The hormone is regarded as the archenemy of cortisol directly
opposing its counterpart by neutralising its negative effects. Just like a
seesaw, when one side goes up the other has no choice but to go
down. Blood pressure is reduced, stress responses are lowered, anxiety
is improved but most of all a feeling of trust and connection is created.