I’m a great hugger. I’ve been told so many times. I like to hug. I hug like I mean it, no half hug, no weird one arm hug. I’ll spare a stranger my bear hug, but if we are on familiar terms, it’s my greeting of choice. A solid, deep heart to heart hug is even approved by science.
We hug others when we’re excited to see each other, happy, or sad. Hugging is generally, universally comforting. But beyond comfort, hugging makes us healthier and happier. Here’s how.
Hugging Reduces Stress. According to HealthLine, hugging reduces stress. Not only is the hugged comforted and their stress reduced but it can also be good for the hugger. The nurturing embrace builds trust and a sense of safety.
Hugging Boosts Serotonin. Serotonin, according to BrainMDLife, “is the soothing neurotransmitter. It is a critical component in facilitating sustained and deep sleep, maintaining a balanced mood, self-confidence, social engagement, and a healthy appetite. Additionally, it helps decrease our worries and concerns and associated with learning and memory.” Who couldn’t stand better sleep and more self-confidence? Try to stretch that hug to 20 seconds; apparently, it’s the optimum length of a hug.
Hugging Boosts Oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and powerful hormone. The “love hormone” plays an essential role in the emotional bond between a mother and child. Hugging can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which diminish feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression.
Hugging Boosts Your Immune System. A study from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) discovered that hugs could, in fact, help fight off illnesses and infections — and boost your immune system. The study, led by Sheldon Cohen, found that people who had more social support and experienced more hugs are more protected from stress and stress-related infections. Gentle pressure on the sternum stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which can keep you healthy and disease free. It can also lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Hugging Boosts Dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for motivation. Hugging stimulates our brain to release that not only cause us to feel good but also lower our risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.
Hugging Boosts Your self-esteem. Associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our childhood are still embedded in our nervous system, even as adults. The hugs we received from our parents while growing up remain imprinted at a more cellular level. Hugs, therefore, affect our ability to self-love. The positive affirmation of a hug can signal to our brains that we are worthy of love and that we are capable of loving (including loving ourselves).
Hugging Boosts Your Nervous System. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped touch sensing pressure centers called Pacinian corpuscles. They are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone exchanging a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin balances the nervous system parasympathetic.
Hugging Provokes Us To Be Mindful. Hugging calls us to be present in the moment. Melting into the moment of an embrace can cause a feeling of gratitude. It can also encourage empathy.
There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
If you see me and you need a hug, go for it. I’m down for more than eight hugs a day. Just don’t freak out if I hold you an extra 10 seconds, I am boosting my immune system. Are you a hugger? Let me know in the comments below.