Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?
Some people love to show their love, happiness, appreciation and excitement by hugging those they care about. They are the ones who give you a giant bear hug that you either absolutely love or are a bit afraid of, depending on what your hugging preference is.
Whether you are wrapped up in your partner’s arms or greeting a friend hello, nothing gives us comfort quite like a warm embrace. Hugs just have a way of making us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Aside from feeling loved and protected, hugs can actually do wonders for our well-being and are a surprisingly powerful health booster.
Have you ever heard of Amma? A little girl from a simple South Indian Village who has come to be known as ‘Amma – the Mother of All’ throughout the world. Since she was 17 years old, Amma has been embracing people continuously for as long as 22 hours. People travel from all around the world to get a hug from Amma, because her embrace makes them feel loved, comforted and safe. She gives those she hugs the feeling that they have finally found someone who knows them inside and out and that feeling gives people the strength to move forward in life. That’s how powerful a hug can be.
Whether it’s that big bear hug, a simple squeeze or some cute cuddling, there are plenty of reasons to embrace the act of embracing someone. A hug creates a special bond between people and when we hug someone for 20 seconds or more, the feel good hormone oxytocin is released. Hugs allow us to share in another person’s joy, experience a moment that is important to the other person or comfort someone when they are sad or down.
Research shows that a deep, proper hug, where the hearts are meeting and pressing together can benefit you in a variety of ways. Here are our TOP 10 reasons to hug more.
#1 Hugs Make Us Feel Good
Have you ever wondered what’s actually going on inside you when you hug someone? When we embrace someone, our brain releases the feel good hormone oxytocin, that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But oxytocin doesn’t just make us feel good, it has also been linked to feeling more connected to the person we hug because it has been found that oxytocin promotes bonding, trust and devotion. Oxytocin is the biological foundation and structure that connects us to other people.
#2 Hugs Lower Stress Levels
A warm embrace alleviates stress levels because it reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your blood, causing your mind to calm down. If you are stressed out because of a big presentation at work, a worrisome medical exam or an important interview, hug someone to stay cool, calm and collected. Use the power of a hug to get through any difficult situation without getting stressed out.
#3 Hugs Boost Your Immune System
The more hugs you give or get, the more likely you are to be able to fight off the common cold. A recent study showed that people who perceive themselves as someone who has a great social support system and receives hugs frequently is much more resistant to the cold virus. You wonder why? It’s all because hugging decreases your cortisol levels, which have been known to inhibit your immune system and at the same time hugs increase the hormones that help regulate the proper functioning of immune cells.
#4 Hugs Balance Your Nervous system
Your skin can sense touch. Hugging has a measurable effect of moisture and electricity over the skin, which is an indication of a balanced nervous system. Hugging activates your parasympathetic nervous system because hugs induce psychological coherence in your body and mind making you feel relaxed and calm. Keep hugging and your nervous system will stay balanced.
#5 Hugs Increase Self-Esteem
We as human beings crave touch. The association of touch and self-worth is deeply imbedded in our nervous systems. The hugs and cuddles we received from our parents as children are imprinted at a cellular level and hugs remind us of that. Hugs empower our ability to love ourselves and boost our self-esteem and confidence.
#6 Hugs Reduce Depression
Hugs are critical to your emotional well-being and have been shown to release serotonin – your own, natural anti-depressant. Hugging can also increase the production of dopamine, which is usually at low levels when you are depressed. We know that hugging promotes healthy emotional intimacy and is the foundation for a happy, healthy life long-term, so when you are feeling down and depressed, hug someone.
#7 Hugs Show Appreciation
In any relationship, it is so easy to take the person you love for granted. Hugging can re-affirm your love. Touching or hugging can have a measurable neuro-biological impact and it is a great way to smooth things over when you have an argument. Studies found that touch can even reverse the damages from the fight you just had. The question is, can hugs save your relationship? We think so…
#8 Hugs Lower Blood Pressure
When you hug someone, a plethora of hormones are released and we are not just talking about the feel good hormones that induce feelings of happiness. Additionally, they can help your physical health. For example when someone touches you, the sensation you feel on your skin activates pressure receptors, which send signals to the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is an area of the brain that is among other things responsible for lowering blood pressure.
#9 Hugs Alleviate Fear
Studies on self-esteem and fear found that touch and hugs can significantly reduce your worry of mortality. While it is always best to hug another person, even hugging a teddy bear can help to soothe your existential fears. Even a simple, fleeting interpersonal touch can be an incredibly powerful mechanism. Any touch by another person – no matter how small or seemingly trivial – can give you a sense of existential significance and help you deal with existential concerns.
#10 Hugs Relieve Pain
If you are in pain, hug someone. When you hug someone endorphins are released, which increase feelings of pleasure and are responsible for blocking pain pathways in the brain and therefore can relieve pain. Hugs also increase the circulation to your soft tissues and can soothe any aches and pains you may feel.
No matter what your hugging preference, hugging can convey a message that oftentimes cannot be expressed through words. Virginia Satir – a respected family therapist – says: ‘We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.’
We personally are big huggers and luckily as yoga teachers we give and receive lots of great hugs from our students at the end of a session. Hugs are a miracle drug and if you aren’t a hugger, yet, we hope that the positive effects of a hug that we discussed might change your mind.
DO YOU NEED A HUG?
Joschi & Monika