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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Letter from the Publisher, November/December 2021

Oct 29, 2021 03:30PM ● By Jessica Coffey
Publisher of Natural Awakenings Richmond, Jessica Coffey

Jessica Coffey, Publisher

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. For me, it’s been one of those weird years that has simultaneously crept along and flown right on by. Even with vaccines and increased travel, 2021 has reminded us that there is no going back to “normal” (what is normal anyway?!). It has shown us that we must learn, adapt and grow from the challenges we have faced to become better citizens of this planet, better neighbors in our communities and better members of our own families and friend groups. How do we do this? I believe self-care is at the heart of it all. We need to heal ourselves through better eating, more exercise, connecting with nature, getting enough sleep, seeking joy and being grateful … Making those positive changes and doing that important work will help us be able to successfully ripple our positivity outward.

This issue helps you learn ways to do that—to live a healthier life on a healthier planet—by simplifying (read more about Buy Nothing groups to help with this!), walking more, complaining less, eating a nutrient-rich diet, increasing your connections with loved ones and mother nature and more. And our special Mind, Body, Soul section highlights four local business owners who offer products and services to help you live your best life.

This holiday season, why not challenge yourself to embracing a simpler, sustainable, more conscious way of living? Less stuff and more meaningful moments doing the things that make you happy with the people you love. And don’t forget about the healing power of a hug … when I think about hugs, I can’t help but think about my dear friend, Ginjer, who could not wait until her friends were all vaccinated so we could once again gather indoors and hug one another! I am a tree-hugger, too, and feel such a rush of positive, grounding energy when I am in the woods with my arms wrapped around a tree. Marlaina Donato describes the power of hugs, and I encourage you to take her advice and open yourself up to its benefits… 

When we were children, a hug helped to take the sting out of a skinned knee or quell first-day-of-school jitters. In adulthood, hugs are not as plentiful or practical; many people lack partners or loved ones, and the gesture—both giving and receiving—is too often labeled as sentimentality. As we continue to move through life with pandemic restrictions, hugs can feel risky at a time when we need them the most.

A hug elicits a powerful shot of neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, and we don’t necessarily need another human to reap the benefits. Wrapping our arms around a breeze-swept tree in the backyard or on a hiking trail can lower heart rate and set our brains abuzz with feel-good endorphins. Earlier this year, the forestry service in Iceland invited people to cuddle up to trees to offset COVID-19 isolation and get in a good dose of forest bathing. Scientific research, including a study from Carnegie Mellon University, backs what unapologetic huggers have always known: Even the most casual embrace can help to lower stress, boost immunity and promote a better night’s sleep.

Cuddling up with a stuffed animal is a part of everyday life for 43 percent of American adults, with men taking the lead. Befriending a plush toy is part of some trauma recovery programs and has a soothing effect on those navigating the dark waters of grief, loss and chronic anxiety. Snuggling up under a warm, weighted blanket is also akin to a hug, and has benefits much like the real thing.

Holding and being held strengthens the body’s defense systems, as well as romantic partnerships, friendships and our relationship with ourselves. Opening our arms can foster the spiritual discipline of not only giving, but receiving—a vital requirement in self-care. In a time of chaotic uncertainty, isolation and change, hugs can be medicine; they can also be a powerful metaphor and reminder to remain open, willing and beautifully human.

Happy Reading, Happy Hugging and Happy Holidays!

2021 Healthy Living Guide
Serves as your local "green" pages — a handy reference tool to use when searching for businesses, practitioners, products and services to help you live a happier, healthier, more balanced life. Click here.
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