I hope you are ready because National Hugging Day™ is this Thursday. Created in 1986 by a minister out in Michigan, the day encourages warm embraces with family and friends. What do you think? Is that enough or should we take our hugs beyond our intimate circle?
On the one hand, your hug could surprise, even frighten that near stranger or acquaintance. On the other, well, everyone needs a hug. Not just occasionally, most of us could use one right about now. Whatever you decide is good with me. You needn’t feel pressured to hug anyone who crosses your path. It’s okay to be a discerning hugger and stick to people you know. However, since I live in a small town, I might decide to expand that to people I think I might know.
You know what I’m talking about. There’s the woman with the great collection of hand-knit sweaters. You can’t help but compliment her when you bump into her at the supermarket. And you see her at least two or three times a month, usually in produce but sometimes in the diary aisle. Then there’s the man in the red cap. You run into him at the dump every week. That’s just for starters, there are tons more. After a few years, you start to wonder, “Have I actually met you? If yes, what the heck is your name? If not, well, your face is certainly familiar.” If you haven’t actually met, a hug might be the first step to a beautiful, new friendship.
What will a hug do for you and your friends, both old and newfound?
A hug is the ultimate win-win. It will make both you and the recipient feel wonderful. This claim isn’t wishful thinking or urban legend. Science confirms that a hug releases the fab four chemicals of happiness: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. You make them yourself. You don’t need a prescription or a bunch of fancy equipment. A cheery hug is all you need to get these chemicals flowing.
Why should you care? Well, let’s take them one by one.
First, dopamine is a motivator. While motivation is always a good thing, it is especially important on a gray winter day. When sky is the color of lead, it’s hard to get of bed in the morning let alone GO FOR IT, whatever IT is. A hug could give a friend the boost she needs to finally ask for that raise or throw that pile of laundry in the washing machine. Another cool thing about dopamine is that once the task is complete, we get a second, reinforcing shot. It’s better than a double expresso.
Serotonin helps create a feeling of well-being and importance. When a hug releases a jolt of serotonin, it sends the message that you matter, that you are loved. A nice hug will ease feelings of loneliness and depression. Think about it, it’s pretty hard to feel lonely when someone has their arms around you.
Next are the endorphins; the chemical of choice for runners and walkers. With thousands of miles logged over a lot of years, I can testify to this one. Commonly known as the runner’s high, endorphins reduce pain, stress, anxiety and depression. If you are one of those people who hates to exercise, make sure you get plenty of hugs. But take note, even walkers and runners love a hug.
Finally, oxytocin is good for building intimacy, trust and healthy relationships. Whether it’s a friend, family or a love interest, hugging will help you grow closer. Especially if you take it a step further and enjoy a long, cozy cuddle. Sounds good on a chilly afternoon or evening.
Enjoy a hug-filled day and bon appétit!
Comfort food is the culinary equivalent of a hug. Laden with fond memories, a mug of tomato soup is the ultimate comfort food. Feel free to add a grilled cheese sandwich! Enjoy!
Makes about 2 quarts
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
Pinch chili pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups (28 ounces) whole or crushed plum tomatoes
About 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
2-3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/4-1/2 cup half-and-half (optional)
Lightly coat a soup pot with olive oil and heat on medium-high. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with chili flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and herbs to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Cool the soup for at least 20 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf and, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half-and-half and more stock if needed.
Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
Stirring frequently, reheat the soup to steaming on medium heat, ladle into mugs or bowls and serve.
If you like, garnish the soup with a spoonful of pesto, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and/or crunchy, homemade croutons.
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One Year Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Two Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Three Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Four Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Five Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Six Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Seven Years Ago – My Favorite Chili
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Are you hugger? Who will you hug on National Hugging Day™? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016