Have you hugged someone today? If not, consider the fact that from a very young age, physical contact plays a vital role in our growth and ability to thrive. Beyond childhood, touch remains an important ingredient in our health and happiness. Let’s not overlook the amazing benefits of hugging that would serve our peace and joy on a deep level.
“One day someone will hug you so tight that all your broken pieces will stick back together.” – Unknown
Can a hug a day keep the doctor away? Actually, that’s pretty sound advice according to this Carnegie Mellon University study, which found that hugging protects you from stress-related sickness.
American psychotherapist Virginia Satir, also known as the “mother of family therapy,” suggests a playful yet serious calculation: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
Though we likely won’t die if we haven’t exchanged four hugs today, we’d probably be happier humans by doing so–happiness is only one of the many benefits of hugging.
Humans are Hard-Wired to Thrive
Feeling loved and secure has its benefits and its purpose, beyond the obvious. Humans are social animals “hard-wired” to thrive, and research showing the soothing, supportive effects of physical touch proves it.
That warm and fuzzy feeling we get from a good hug, specifically, has a scientific explanation.
A hug that lasts over twenty seconds releases the brain chemical known as oxytocin, which elevates feelings of intimacy, attachment, connection, and trust. In other words, a meaningful hug helps us feel closer.
Since touch also lowers the output of the stress hormone cortisol, it activates two more feel-good brain chemicals: serotonin and dopamine.
To me, this all reads like a recipe for happiness. It’s a promising look into the perspective that human beings are hard-wired to be happy.
Some Happy Benefits of Hugging
Hugging is a kind of therapy that heals the heart, soothes the body, and feeds the soul. Here are some examples of such therapeutic effects that a good hug can elicit:
- Gentle pressure on the sternum stimulates the thymus gland, responsible for the production of white blood cells, our immune system cells that protect the body against infectious disease.
- Boosts brain health and memory.
- Engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows heart rate, dilates blood vessels, slows breathing, relaxes muscles, and calms thoughts.
- Lowers blood pressure by activating pressure receptors on the skin and by reducing cortisol, our stress hormone.
- Oxytocin, which is released during a supportive hug, helps you sleep better.
- Increases feelings of connection, empathy, safety, and trust.
- Inspires positive thinking and social comfort.
- Boosts self-esteem and self-acceptance.
- Alleviates existential fears for people with low self-esteem.
Love Flows Both Ways
A good hug elicits mutually beneficial chain reactions in the body of both the giver and the recipient. This is wonderful, for it means the love we give is the love we receive, and we can enjoy it immediately. It’s another promising look into the life-altering perspective that giving is receiving.
Through a warm embrace, we learn to be more receptive to affection and cognizant of its importance. Opening ourselves to receive love better enables us to keep the flow of loving kindness going, and to spread the joy associated with compassion to everything and everyone we touch.
- Which of these benefits of hugging have you personally experienced, or enjoy the most?
- Do you know of any other benefits that you could add to this list?
- Are you willing to open up and become a little more comfortable giving and receiving love through the power of a good hug?
Please share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone you care about.
Hug someone. It’s free.