Separation and divorce can wreak havoc on your emotions. But did you know they also lead to increased health risks? They’re serious, and at least one of these risks seems to affect women more than men.
A first-time divorce appears to boost the odds of a woman having a heart attack by 24%, according to an 18 year study of nearly 16,000 adults. And for women who divorce at least twice, odds of a heart attack are 77% greater! Men have an increased risk too, but it’s less than women, and interestingly, it disappears if they remarry (hmm…).
Divorce also elevates our risks - for men and women - of chronic health conditions (cancer, diabetes, etc.), mobility issues, and depressive episodes (though it seems only for those who have a history of depression).
That all sounds pretty grim, right? The good news is most of us are resilient enough to bounce back without putting a major ding in our health. The better news is that all of us can take proactive measures to up our resiliency to weather the storm.
You know all the things to do to build your divorce muscles. You know about getting regular exercise and eating healthy. Quitting smoking. Getting enough z’s.
But here’s one we just love that you may not think about: Hugging.
Hugging has so many health benefits. It:
helps lower your stress level throughout the day
boosts your immune system (yes, hugging can even help you stave off a cold)
might lower your heart rate and blood pressure, according to a UNC study of women
can lead to decreased depression
can minimize fears
On top of all that, it’s free, easy to do, and makes you feel so good.
So how many hugs do you need in order to feel the benefit?
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth."
-Virginia Satir, family therapist
I first heard that quote from another family lawyer who had an office in my building. Every time I’d run into him, he’d give me a hug. We were adversaries in the courtroom, but huggers in the parking garage. I have to admit, it made me feel good.
Not all hugs are created equal, though. It’s best to hug for at least 20 seconds - that’s where the real value comes in. And don’t just give one of those wimpy, half-hearted hugs. You know the kind we mean. Hug like you mean it!
In our current state of pandemic, we know hugging is mostly off limits. Air hugging your friend from a safe 6 feet away might help to slow the spread of Covid-19, but it’s not helping your heart. Safe to say we’re probably all a little hug deprived. And if you’re in relationship trauma, it’s more important than ever that you get your hugs in where you can!
While you can’t go around giving out random hugs to strangers, you can: hug your kids. Hug the family and friends you’re able to comfortably be in contact with right now. Hug your pet. Hug yourself. If you feel funny asking for extra hugs, say it’s doctor’s orders.
So go get your hugs. If you were here right now, I’d give you a big one.