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Children Who Get Hugs Tend to Become Happier Adults, 2020-10-16

I missed out on hugs and cuddles. My mother, who was mentally ill, did not display affection. In second grade, I walked home from school with a friend. I remember watching as she ran up her front steps. Her mother would be waiting for her at the door with a smile. She’d open the door and wrap her arms around my friend.

I was jealous.

As explored in a previous post, young children need positive stimulation—back and forth interactions—from adults for healthy brain development. Further, prolonged exposure to adverse experiences can cause stress to become toxic as surges in stress hormones, such as cortisol, disrupt developing brain circuits. The body’s stress response system can get stuck in the on position. Overexposure to cortisol can result in an increased risk of physical and mental health problems later in life.

As it turns out, hugs, cuddles, and comforting words can help mitigate the effects of toxic stress for kids of all ages. As noted in the Newsweek article, “Yes, Stress Really Is Making You Sick,” the effects of childhood adversity “can be blunted by emotional ‘buffering’—a response from a loving, supportive caregiver that comforts the child, restores a sense of safety and allows cortisol levels to fall back down to normal.

Read the whole article here.

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