Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hug's benefits

Every once in awhile I come across something that truly needs to be shared.
Although I am not much on FB I do still have an account and depending upon day, mood or time at my disposal I take a quick look. Today I came across a posting from someone who in his own right always has me thinking positively: the pilot who flew my nephew and myself up to visit an Alaskan chief in 2013. Today he had posted the “Sacred Dream” posting about hugging. I am fortunate enough to have a "hugger" in the family. A minute or two - not a problem and yes I always feel better, refreshed, loved and more able to face whatever else life might throw at me in the hours that follow. This son is also, ever so fortunately for the world, an indiscriminate hugger - anyone who needs one, anyone who looks like they need one, anyone who will accept one gets hugged! Thanks S - you make the world a friendlier place!

If it needs scientific validation – read the following.

The average length of a hug between two people is 3 seconds. But the researchers have discovered something fantastic. When a hug lasts 20 seconds, there is a therapeutic effect on the body and mind. The reason is that a sincere embrace produces a hormone called "oxytocin", also known as the love hormone. This substance has many benefits in our physical and mental health, helps us, among other things, to relax, to feel safe and calm our fears and anxiety. This wonderful tranquilizer is offered free of charge every time we have a person in our arms, who cradled a child, who cherish a dog or a cat, that we are dancing with our partner, the closer we get to someone or simply hold the Shoulders of a friend.

A famous quote by psychotherapist Virginia Satir goes, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Whether those exact numbers have been scientifically proven remains to be seen, but there is a great deal of scientific evidence related to the importance of hugs and physical contact. Here are some reasons why we should hug::


Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. You see this little gem is released during childbirth, making our mothers forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured expelling us from their bodies and making them want to still love and spend time with us. New research from the University of California suggests that it has a similarly civilising effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. And it dramatically increased the libido and sexual performance of test subjects. When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.


Connections are fostered when people take the time to appreciate and acknowledge one another. A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgement of another person. The world is a busy, hustle-bustle place and we’re constantly rushing to the next task. By slowing down and taking a moment to offer sincere hugs throughout the day, we’re benefiting ourselves, others, and cultivating better patience within ourselves.


Affection also has a direct response on the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.


Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.


Almost 70 percent of communication is nonverbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal. Not only can they feel the love and care in your embrace, but they can actually be receptive enough to pay it forward to others based on your initiative alone.


Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. The tactile sense is all-important in infants. A baby recognizes its parents initially by touch. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self love.


Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Low dopamine levels play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors are also associated with sensation-seeking.


Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.


Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system – parasympathetic.
Embrace, embrace with your heart.~~

art: Dorina Costras

Artwork by Dorina Costras

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

No Ailurophobia for me!

I grew up with birds, cats, eventually a dog, and goldfish.
I hated the canaries as cleaning their cage was not the most fun of activities; the goldfish were not a problem as quiet and much cleaner – they just kind of sat there swimming in their bowl, neither here nor there, just existing.

The dog was there on sufferance because my mother couldn’t bear to see it go to a kennel when the owners moved across the country and couldn’t take their lovely Samoyed with them (ok it was probably my dad who actually came home with it, but unlike the ducks, which my mother promptly got rid of, Cindy stayed to steal our ice-cream when we tried to hide them behind our backs. She was such fun). Cindy was not allowed in the house: that lasted about a month until she got hit in the street and ended up with a broken leg. She then became the baby of the house.

Most present however were the cats. Back then we didn’t sterilize as much as now as there seemed to be an unending stream of families needing kittens. I don’t remember half of them but when my older son desperately wanted and animal and his father was totally against the idea we did end up with a small, male cat – Sethi (yep older son was in his Egyptian phase). This in turn meant that when Sethi disappeared from our lives, the younger son needed something as well. We couldn’t settle on a kitten and ended up bringing home two. I almost was divorced that afternoon – my husband disappeared for about 6 hours and I had to do some very persuasive talking in order to not only save the marriage, but keep the cats. This, of course was the same husband who when said son and I were occasionally absent, babied Smudge and Munchkin – not that he ever would have admitted it.

When Munchkin finally had to be let go (put down sounds so cruel) due to cancer, I was unable to be in the vets office, leaving my then housemate to accompany my younger son whilst my older son stayed in the waiting room with me.

The pain of that led to a two-year hiatus in having cats, but as I write this, Babette is cuddled in my arms, her head near the keyboard and one paw on my left hand as I type. Clea for once is out and about.

I definitely don’t have

(ai-loor-uh-FOH-bee-uh, ay-)

noun: A fear of cats.

From Greek ailuro- (cat) + phobia (fear). Earliest documented use: 1905.

(from Wordsmith, A word a Day)

In fact it makes we wonder what the opposite of the term is?

Let's take a look

There may be a mouse back there!

You keep looking, I'll take a break
Cogitating on the papers - the message will pass

OK so I felt more like a sunbath in the light of the lamp

Always room for both of us
Well deserved rest after a hard work day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


noun: An abnormal craving for food.

From Greek sito- (grain, food) + -mania (excessive enthusiasm or craze). Earliest documented use: 1882. The opposite is sitophobia.

And here when I read it this morning I thought that it perhaps referred to my activities yesterday, i.e. sit-all-day.

And that was actually the one thing that I didn’t have yesterday – sitomania – good thing too as it all started one day last week when on a “coup de tête”, or a whim if you will, I decided to buy what is known as a “day card” on the Swiss train system. One can obtain these through the SBB/CFF, but also – at a much more interesting price – our local communes.

I had rather thought that I would discover Olten, Neuchatel and Yverdon so having had a decent breakfast at home, minus the coffee, off I went to catch a bus (they also cover all the bus systems and many of the smaller trains, or on private trains give a reduced rate) to my main train station.

There I almost wavered as the first train up was to Brig in the Valais – a lovely ride, but one that I have done recently both by train and by car; the second train up was to St.Gallen. Four hours away it is also a well-known-to-me destination so I decided to stick by my original plan and get off in Lausanne to find a train to Olten. The first possibility was still the one to St.Gallen, but as it was passing through Yverdon and Neuchatel I figured that was good enough. Had coffee in luxury in the restaurant (one of my favorite upgrading tricks is to board the train on a major route then simply head for the dining car and according to the time of day order coffee, a snack or even a meal as the food is surprisingly good).

In Neuchatel the next track over had a RE (Regional Express) for Le Locle so that’s where I went. The views along the way were lovely even if it was overcast, especially at Les Hauts Geneveys where one could see wide and far. Traditionally in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle the watch industry thrived. Today there is even a new stop “Le Crêt sur Locle” as many other factories have joined the ranks. Spent 15 minutes in Le Locle then retraced my steps (having blindly gotten off in La Chaux-de-Fonds and boarded the train on the next track over only to discover that I had boarded a train back to Neuchatel). 

The train station has been abandonned in Le Locle

OK, another chance: in Neuchatel grabbed a sandwich and a bottle of water then hopped on a regional train to Buttes having absolutely no clue as to how long, nor what I would find along the way, or in Buttes for that matter. A beautiful ride in one of the folds of the mountain through the Val de Travers, including Môtiers where my former housemate had begun her life in Switzerland. Fun as we had gone there by car on one of our other adventures.

Along the way

The castle in Neuchatel

Return to Neuchatel than an IR (Inter Regional) to Bern – the federal capital of Switzerland. As I intended to stick strictly to nature I hopped on the next tram down to the Bear Pits where Lady Luck accompanied me: the bears are out of winter hibernation and mom, dad and junior were enjoying the lovely spring weather just as much as we humans – it was sunny!

Spring has sprung near the train station in Bern

Maman foraging for food

Father scratching that itch (the same way I do!)

Maman decided to cool off and take a nap

Father and son trying to return to the inside

By the time I took the lift down to the Aar and walked along it back to another bridge nearer the Federal buildings it was well past time for coffee. A half-hour of shopping and back to the train station where I decided that it had been a lovely day, but was perhaps time for the trip home, via Fribourg, Romont, Lausanne and on to Geneva.

Our Federal Palace

The roofs rival with the trees for color

Along the Aare looking back towards the bear pits

Such a lovely way of seeing Switzerland and in spite of the many hours of sitting in trains I still managed to clock almost 11’000 steps as well!  To be repeated.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Marshes and wanderings

Easter is my favorite holiday here in Geneva as we have both Good Friday and Easter Monday as official holidays giving us a whole 4-day weekend!
If on Friday I managed to catch up a bit on paper work and on Saturday I spent a lovely part of the middle of the day with friends in Féchy eating at another friend’s restaurant, Sunday, April 1st was dedicated to simply going with the flow.

Amongst other things that flow took me on a walk in one of my favorite areas: “it was a miracle” as I have heard said – the sun was out! The marshes after this wet winter are full and almost overflowing the boardwalk in some areas, still lovely to be out and about.

Today, the 2nd was spent in another of my favorite activities: getting a bus pass and simply wandering. Weather dry if not brilliantly sunny so did end up at the Botanical Gardens where some of the flowers and trees are finally starting to bloom, but also dipped into the cathedral near the train station (organ) then after lunch took the number 15 tram to its’ end. During the return changed and hopped on the 18 to CERN – and back – before catching a 2 back to where I had left the car in the underground parking lot near the yacht club.

An inexpensive and lovely way to spend a day.
Also enhanced by the memory of another friend and such wanderings.

Notre Dame, Geneva
some of the rhodes are already in bloom

On the gray wall of the BIT, Geneva

Botanical Gardens in Geneva - finally a glimpse of spring