Having love in our lives and feeling close to someone is one of the greatest gifts of life. Hugs make us feel warm and protected, and a touching gesture can do wonders for our whole well-being. Researchers have discovered that hugging boosts happiness, releases stress, and can even reduce pain. A warm embrace not only makes you feel calmer and safe, but it also has physical and psychological effects, as well.
Whether it’s a bear hug, a warm cuddle, or a long embrace, there are many reasons why we should be giving more hugs:
- Hugging builds a sense of trust, safety, and importance. It helps us find meaning in life and conquer our fears. A loving touch makes us feel loved and special. The hugs we receive as kids from our parents remain imprinted at an emotional level, and they connect us, later in life, with our ability to love ourselves and others.
- The sensory nerve endings in the skin are connected to the part of the brain responsible for the emotional responses. When you are hugged, your brain gets the message that you’re feeling secure and safe. As a result, the stress hormone cortisol levels go down. Reduced cortisol can help boost your immune system and protect you against disease and infection. Hugs also relax muscle tension and release pain.
- Hugs stimulate oxytocin, known as the “love hormone”, which not only makes us feel warm and fuzzy, but also promotes feelings of trust, devotion, and bonding. Some studies have shown that oxytocin has a miraculous effect on males, making them more devoted, affectionate, and better at social bonding and forming relationships. High levels of oxytocin are linked to lower heart rate and lower blood pressure, so an embrace can be a good medicine for the heart.
- Holding a hug for an extended time stimulates dopamine and serotonin – the “feel good” hormones – creating bliss and feelings of belonging. Receiving a hug helps us feel less lonely, and that can help reduce anxiety. People who don’t receive this kind of positive physical contact are more likely to be depressed.
- Hugs are also very important for babies. Studies have shown that in children of affectionate mothers the volume of their hippocampus (the brain region responsible for learning, memory, and stress response) was 10% larger than those whose mothers were not affectionate. The children who aren’t hugged tend to start walking, talking, and reading later than the ones who are hugged. Nurturing and hugging allow the baby’s nervous system to develop and mature without being stressed and insecure. That way, they become socially well-adjusted and less stressed as adults.
What I find interesting is that it doesn’t matter if you are the hugger or the huggee; hugging is beneficial for the one doing the hugging, as well as for the one being hugged. It teaches us how to give and receive, to let go and enjoy the moment, and to be compassionate and understanding.
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth”.
So no matter your age, try to cultivate warm and loving relationships with your spouse, children, other family members, and friends. Any kind of loving and affectionate physical interaction (such as holding hands, kissing, cuddling, and getting or giving a massage) will make you feel a little happier and a little healthier. You will build trust and connect at a deeper level. But most importantly, you will brighten someone else’s day by showing her/him you care.
And who doesn’t want that?
So hug someone today and become healthier and happier!
Do you like getting or giving hugs?
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