In the midst of our busy lives, running to work, running errands, running to catch the bus, we have taken for granted a simple action which boosts our happiness and health, the simple hug.
Hugging has been proved to be mentally, emotionally and physically beneficial for us. Every inch of our skin is a sense organ and is receptive to touch. Touching someone helps you to connect with them and create a bond. Hugging, caressing and cuddling are crucial for us to develop attachments which in turn enhances survival abilities. Children who receive more hugs are more secure and have a strong sense of belonging. It fosters feelings of love, which bolsters children’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Not only does hugging bring people physically closer, but emotionally as well.
The healing power of hugs goes above and beyond other forms of sensory contact such as a hand shake, pat on the back, or a social hug, the types you receive at big gatherings. Hugging falls under Therapeutic Touch which is used by mental health professionals to help relieve pain, decrease anxiety and depression and increase one’s will to live. Hugs can strengthen one’s immune system and are administered to premature babies to help them survive. Hugging can also help reduce insomnia, boost language acquisition in infants, increase IQ, and create a positive mind set. In older people, hugs can decrease senility and increase liveliness. Not only do you feel better about yourself if you hug and receive hugs, you are also more prepared to deal with everyday stressors.
This positive energy that is created between huggers has a physiological basis in the body. People with chronic pain are usually advised to have a spouse/friend/relative touch them in the area of the pain for approximately half an hour. This stimulates nerve endings and increases the delivery of blood to the surrounding tissues. Hugging can reduce stress levels which can decrease one’s vulnerability to stress related disorders. This even works when hugging your pet. So if you’re not a people person, cuddle up with your cat, dog or rabbit and let the healing powers of hugs set in.
Scientists have identified what is called “the hormone of love and bonding.” Oxytocin. When people hug, their bodies create Oxytocin. This increases feelings of warmth, trust, safety and connection between the two people. Neuroscientist, James Coan, conducted an experiment related to touch in 2006. He had women in happy, committed relationships receive an electric shock. The same was done for women in unhappy relationships. When the first set of women held their partner’s hand as the shock was administered, they felt less distressed, had lower blood pressure and felt less pain than when they were not holding their partner’s hand. This effect was not the same for those in unhappy relationships. This goes to show how important the power of touch is especially when it is with someone you love and trust.
If hugging has so many benefits, why don’t we do it more? It’s free, easy to administer and apparently conducive to our well-being. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and hug until your heart’s content!
Chopra, P. (n.d.). Personal Growth – Have you hugged anyone lately? Life Positive. Retrieved May 13, 2013, from http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/personal-growth/hug/hug-therapy.asp
Hug Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2013, from http://eqi.org/ht.htm
Phelps, B., L. (April 11, 2012). How Partners Can Help Each Other Feel Good. WebMD. Retrieved May 13, 2013, from http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2012/04/how-partners-can-help-each-other-feel-good.html
Image Credit: YURI ARCURS/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM