Health Benefits of Hugging: The Important Reason Why Your Body Needs A Hug Every Day!
Whether you’re wrapped up in the arms of your partner, cuddle your kid or greet a friend hello, hugs have a way of making us feel warm and fuzzy inside. They make you feel protected and loved. But did you know that this touching gesture is also a surprisingly powerful health booster?
For decades we’ve known that babies won’t thrive without physical holding and affection. There is little that will comfort or reassure small kids as well as a hug or kiss from a loved one. Yet, it is not uncommon for parents to stop hugging their children as they reach puberty.
For many adults, the amount of physical nurturing they receive declines as they age, even as medical studies confirm that the health benefits of physical touch extend throughout our lives.
A heart to heart hug can have significant benefits on our mental and physical health and happiness in the following ways:
Hugs can increase your self-esteem
From the moment we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. During our childhood the loving cuddles that we receive develop into our sense of self-worth which we carry into adulthood at a cellular level. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. That is why when we are feeling down, unsure of ourselves or confused a hug can often transform those feelings back to one of self-worth and a positive attitude.
Hugs enhance Relationships
A good hug increases the feeling of safety, security, trust and belonging. These are the foundations of all healthy relationships. Research has shown that relationships in which hugging and touching are present tend to be stronger and longer lasting.
The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding. And the whole is more than the sum of its parts: 1 + 1 = 3 or more! This is more likely to result in win-win outcomes and longer lasting relationships.
Hugs can lower stress
Getting a good squeeze before going into a stressful situation can help you relax and calm down a bit. The hug could even help you stay calm, cool, and collected during the event. The reason for this is that when we hug or kiss a loved one, our oxytocin levels go up. This powerful hormone is often called “the bonding hormone”, because it promotes attachment in relationships, including between mothers and their new born babies.
Oxytocin is made primarily in the hypothalamus in the brain, and some of it is released into the bloodstream through the pituitary gland. But some of it remains in the brain, where it influences mood, behaviour and physiology. It has the ability to alleviate social anxiety and produce feelings of trust. It also has the peripheral ability to reduce stress.
Hugs can lower the risk of heart disease
The hormones that are released in the body after a hug aren’t just good for happy feelings — they can also help your physical health. When someone touches you, the sensation on your skin activates pressure receptors called Pacinian corpuscles, which then send signals to the vagus nerve, an area of the brain that is responsible for (among many things) lowering blood pressure.
Human-to-human contact also lowers your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And that in turn helps ease your blood flow and lower your heart rate.
Hugs can boost immunity
It’s been shown that people who are under stress and in conflict with others are more susceptible to viruses like the common cold. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University set out to determine whether social support, such as hugging, might in turn be protective against such infections.
It turns out their hypothesis was right. Among 404 adults, those who had greater social support and more frequent hugs during conflicts were less likely to “catch” a cold after they were exposed to the virus. The hugs, researchers said, were responsible for about one-third of the protective effect.
Hugging is important for adults too
Physical touch and hugging can combat feelings of loneliness that arise as people get older. A retirement home in New York conducted a study in which they implemented a program called ‘Embraceable You.’ The idea was to encourage cross-generational contact and touch between residents and staff members in order to improve the residents’ wellbeing. The results were conclusive, with residents who were touched or hugged three or more times a day having more energy, feeling less depressed, better able to concentrate and more restful sleep than their less-hugged counterparts.
So what’s not to love? Hugs make you happier, healthier and more relaxed – AND improve your relationships!
There’s only one catch: It has to be a GOOD HUG! Which means, it has to last at least 20 seconds.