Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hugging for Life

Around ten years ago I wrote an essay for this blog about not being much of a hugger. I theorized then that hugging is a learned response and no one in my family seemed to be enthusiastic about hugging. Who knows what went on behind parents’ closed doors but that’s another day on someone’s couch.

Only recently has hugging become important to me and what a revelation that was. Chalk it up to age or life changes or whatever, the point is that I now have come to understand the value of a hug. Now I know that it’s a vital connection that tells someone that they are important to you, and if the hug is reciprocally enthusiastic, you know that you are important to them. And that’s what hugging has always been about – I just didn’t know it.

I still have a problem hugging a tall person. Getting up close and personal with a sternum is not my idea of a good time or a good hug. But it’s a minor complaint in the scheme of things, especially when hugs are loaded with health benefits. Yes, when you feel close and connected to people you care about, studies have shown that this enhanced social support can mean you’re less likely to catch a cold.

Then there’s the fact that hugging can release oxytocin (also known as the bonding hormone) and that in turn reduces stress. Receptors under your skin can increase vagal activity that helps to put you in a relaxed state. The calming effect of a hug has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.

I’m not confident that our current state of polarization could be ameliorated by increasing hugging, but it might not be a bad place to start. It’s hard to yell insults at someone when you’re in a close embrace.

So I’ve come late to the party but that beats not being invited, or worse, not knowing there was a party. I no longer shrink from the hug. Quite the opposite. I’ve embraced the embrace. Don’t you think I even sound calmer?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Up In Smoke

Put down that bong or that doobie and listen up. According to the Addiction Journal (your read that right, there’s a journal for addiction. Once you start reading it, you can’t stop) there has been a 71% increase in marijuana use for people over 50 from 2006 to 2013.

Let that sink in for a minute. So maybe a fair number of baby boomers are smoking pot for medical reasons. Look at any alternative newspaper and the back pages are filled with ads for medical marijuana dispensaries (if that’s legal in your state). Boomers suffering with pain, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, nausea or loss of appetite have all benefited from medical marijuana, but what about the rest of you stoners?

Some baby boomers never stopped smoking pot. From their teen years until now, they have been getting high the same way others have a cocktail every night at 5pm. Then there are the newcomers who have taken to smoking pot because they are lucky enough to live in a state where it’s legal or they live in a state where it’s illegal but everyone can get their hands on it anyway. Marijuana does not have the scare power that it used to.

Study researchers see no particular harm in this increased usage by older citizens, as they assume that these pot smokers are experienced users who know their limits. The risk of falls was cited as one possible adverse effect, however you would have to think that baby boomers who are really high are also not in the mood to stand up. So there’s that.

Researchers believe more studies should be done to see there can be any actual harm to older Americans from continued use of cannabis. As they say in New York, fuhgettaboutit. Even for a publication called Addiction Journal, it’s a little crazy to waste any effort studying the effect of pot smoking on baby boomers.

My mother said it best. “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.