Science is cool. It teaches us many things including how to live more joyful, healthier lives. Being a therapist, I get really excited when I learn about the science behind what makes people happy. This sounds like flaky stuff, but to me, it is some of the most worthwhile stuff of life. Scientists are confirming something that we inherently know on an intuitive level. Hugs are good for you! Okay, this is not exactly breaking news, but what is interesting is how healing hugs can be and how many benefits you get from this simple, beautiful gesture.
According to the National Institutes of Health, when you hug someone, it triggers the brain to release a pleasurable chemical called oxytocin. "Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal. It also seems to play an important role in our relationships. It’s been linked, for example, to how much we trust others." All of that from a hug!
- Strengthening the immune system
- Boosting self esteem
- Building trust and a sense of safety
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering stress levels
- Decreasing feelings of loneliness
Hugs are especially important to babies and children. Some research suggests that well hugged babies make for less stressed adults. And the list goes on and on.
One hug a day is not really sufficient. Four is kind of a minimum, but eight or nine a day would be ideal. Resolve today to give and receive more physical affection in general and hugs in particular. It costs so little, but gives so much. And when you give that full frontal, warm, stress releasing hug, lean in and feel yourself existing in the sweet, calming moment. I feel happy just thinking about it.