Have you ever thought about hugs? I mean really thought about them? Sure, you know they feel good, but have you ever asked yourself why? We did, and it turns out there are a lot of ways that a hug can help you, and a lot of benefits of hugging. We bet you could guess some of them.
There are many things that happen in our minds and bodies when we hug, one of the biggest benefit being the release of oxytocin. They call it the “cuddle hormone,” and it is linked to our warm fuzzy feelings, as well as feelings of devotion, trust, and bonding. It’s very important in having a happy, healthy life. And that’s only the beginning of the benefits.
Are you totally stressed? We could all use less stress in our lives, but it’s hard to make that happen. Luckily, there is a much easier solution then quitting your job and running for the hills, just find a hug instead. Getting your arms around someone and giving them a squeeze makes you feel instantly less stressed because the hormone cortisol (the “stress hormone”) is immediately reduced.
Did you know that a good hug can strengthen the immune system and lower your blood pressure? It’s the skin-on-skin contact! Pressure receptors in your skin called Pacinian corpuscles activate when you’re hugged, and this sends signals to the vagus nerve. In your brain, the vagus nerve area is in charge of lowering your blood pressure and other things! Cool, right!
One of the biggest surprises we found (although after reading about the health benefits, it made compete sense) is that, it’s the adults that can benefit from hugging the most! It seems pretty universally agreed that babies and kids need snuggles, but it is just as important, if not more so, for adults. It seems obvious, but being wrapped in someone’s embrace relieves loneliness. It becomes increasingly important as we grow older and become physically weaker that we get our huggles in! Feeling lonely will increase stress, and that can be very negative for our bodies and minds. There have been numerous studies showing that partners’ heart rates increase when not able to hug each other. Increased heart rates can spell trouble for adults, so it’s very important to hug more often as we get older.
But it’s important for babies too, because that is where all these benefits stem from. Research from Emory University concluded that in the earlier stages of life, those that were touched and hugged often could cope with stress easier as adults, as well as experiencing less stress. Snuggles in early development also help us with our response to fear and our self-esteem! The loving touch of our family and hugs at bedtime coupled with a story makes us feel special, and these feelings are duplicated when we get in a big ol’ bear hug.
That’s a lot of technical information about the benefits of hugging, but what it all boils down to is: hug more and hug longer, because it’s safe to say that even though it’s a seemingly simple act, a hug is a powerful thing!