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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey


The Magic of Hugs

Jan 31, 2024 09:27AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Group of people in a family hugging

August de Richelieu from Pexels/CanvaPro

Through the ages, various substances and lifestyle changes have been touted as panaceas, but even in our modern world there is one unexpected soul-elixir that might rival the others—the human hug. Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy, is famous for saying, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Even hugging a pet or stuffed animal can lower blood pressure, take the edge off pain and curb the effects of certain pro-inflammatory cytokines.

During a hug, preferably the 20-second variety, we can experience a drop in anxiety, thanks to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol and a friendly burst of the bonding hormone oxytocin. Hugging our spouse, a friend or someone after church can ward off the common cold while helping us feel less alone in a big world.  

Hugging is a language unto itself, showing others that they matter. Too often, we postpone physical contact, rushing out the door on the way to work. Couples sometimes reserve embraces only as a prelude to intimacy. Children can be deprived of hugs because of generational and cultural reservation. In the end, most of us don’t have enough healthy, non-sexual touch, which can contribute to loneliness, depression and feelings of separateness. Whether we are born huggers or hug-phobic and warming up to the practice, lifting our arms to express affection or support another person can prove that there are safe places indeed.

Here are a few suggestions to add hugs to the day.  

  • Compose “hug certificates” and put them in someone’s birthday card to use throughout the year.
  • Hug a pillow when alone and surrender to the safe-place feeling.
  • Give a child a hug before and after school, after a job well done or just because.
  • Schedule two hugs a day with a partner and make sure they each are at least 20 seconds in duration.
  • To respect possible past trauma around touch, ask someone if it’s okay to give them a hug. 

Marlaina Donato is a visionary artist, composer and author of several books. Connect at 

Tick Talk

Spring officially sprung on March 21. We have turned our clocks ahead. We are looking forward to warm winds, sunny skies and the smell of fresh cut grass. The daffodils and tulips have recently bloomed and we are just starting with the yard work that comes with the warmer weather.  Sadly, another season has started ramping up.  Tick season.

•             The best form of protection is prevention. Educating oneself about tick activity and how our behaviors overlap with tick habitats is the first step.

•             According to the NJ DOH, in 2022 Hunterdon County led the state with a Lyme disease incidence rate of 426 cases per 100,000 people. The fact is ticks spend approximately 90% of their lives not on a host but aggressively searching for one, molting to their next stage or over-wintering. This is why a tick remediation program should be implemented on school grounds where NJ DOH deems high risk for tick exposure and subsequent attachment to human hosts.

•             Governor Murphy has signed a bill that mandates tick education in NJ public schools. See this for the details.  Tick education must now be incorporated into K-12 school curriculum. See link:

•             May is a great month to remind the public that tick activity is in full swing. In New Jersey, there are many tickborne diseases that affect residents, including Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Powassan, and Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis.

•             For years, the focus has mainly been about protecting ourselves from Lyme disease. But other tick-borne diseases are on the rise in Central Jersey. An increase of incidence of Babesia and Anaplasma are sidelining people too. These two pathogens are scary because they effect our blood cells. Babesia affects the red blood cells and Anaplasma effects the white blood cells.

•             Ticks can be infected with more than one pathogen. When you contract Lyme it is possible to contract more than just that one disease. This is called a co-infection. It is super important to pay attention to your symptoms. See link.

A good resource from the State:


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