Studies show that hugging is critical to our health. Yes, that squeeze that warms your heart, actually helps you live a better life, grow and overcome challenges. It’s no wonder that skin-to-skin contact – essentially hugging – is one of the vital acts of nurturing a newborn. But hugging should go well beyond early childhood. Today we’re exploring the importance of hugging.
What Makes a Good Hug
A true hug should be a full embrace that lasts at least 20 seconds. One of the most amazing things about hugging is that it is immediately reciprocal: hugging someone else is also a hug for yourself. So you reap all the benefits of hugging by extending a hug to someone else. A family therapist once said, “We need four hugs a day to survive. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Make it your goal to give and receive 12 hugs a day!
Health Benefits of Hugging
Hugs are the universal medicine. That seems like a sweet and frivolous thing to say, but there is scientific evidence behind the health benefits of hugging. Hugs release a hormone called oxytocin, aka “the cuddle hormone,” which makes us feel good and emotionally connected with others. This neuropeptide can also lower blood pressure and stabilize the heart rate, both of which are crucial for cardiovascular health. Research indicates that hugs are most beneficial to adults, whose bodies are already undergoing the natural aging process and could use the physical and emotional health enhancements more.
Furthermore, hugs boost self-esteem and relieve stress and anxiety by reducing the stress hormone cortisol in the body, In fact, this response is almost instantaneous upon receiving a hug as a good embrace relaxes and calms the body. Hugging also reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness, and make us feel more socially connected. This is do to yet another hormone, dopamine, “the happiness hormone.” Families that hug feel more united and children who receive plenty of hugs not only have less behavioral problems, they are also more emotionally stable as adults.
How to Become a Better Hugger
Hugging does not come naturally to some. It may or may not be part of your normal repertoire depending on how you were raised, your level of comfort touching others and your personality. But now that you know the importance of hugging and how good it is for your health, you may want to try to become a better hugger.
Hugs are a wonderful way to greet people or say goodbye. Most of us don’t say hi to a complete stranger with a hug, but after getting to know them for awhile, we may feel compelled to hug them, even after a first encounter. Hugging can also happen spontaneously at any time. Of course, if a friend is feeling down or seems out of sorts, a hug is obviously in order. Then other times, when you connect with someone on an idea, you discover a common interest or you just want to be friendly, a hug is a great way to show your affection. And don’t forget hugs of appreciation. Hugs can convey a lot of sentiments so keep hugs in your daily arsenal to ensure you reach your goal of at least 12 a day!