We’ve all had the magical childhood experience of mommy’s hug making our boo-boo go away, but it hasn’t been until recently that we can be justified for feeling this way!
A renowned psychotherapist, Virginia Satir, says that 4 hugs a day helps you survive, 8 hugs a day maintains you, and 12 hugs a day helps you grow. So, let’s take her advice to replace the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” with “8 hugs a day keeps the doctor away, and 12 hugs a day makes everything okay!”
In recent years, medical studies have shown that there are, in fact many health benefits that come from hugging; so feel free to swear by your mom’s hugs making your childhood heartaches and pains go away. You’re even gonna want to go hug-it-out with a stranger after hearing these extremely important health benefits of hugging.
Boosts your Immune System
Stress is significantly reduced when affection is shown through hugging. Since stress is directly related to the immune system, this makes hugging an effective way to prevent disease. A study by the University of Miami reports that increased hugging leads to significant health benefits - from improving immunity among people with cancer, to aiding in the healthy growth of premature babies. So ironically, you can stay disease free with the more people you hug!
Lowers Levels of Pain
The same study by the University of Miami also says that a proper hug, heart to heart, can lower levels of pain. Hugging applies gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge is known to activate the thymus gland, which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells, not only lowering pain, but coming full circle to enhance the immune system.
Combats Common Cold and Flu
A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University showed that hugging can help you get better from the common cold and flu! This is particularly true if you are stressed out because hugging is effective for reducing stress-induced susceptibility to infection such as a viral infection.
Reduces Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
A study at the University of North Carolina proved that people that hug have significantly lower systolic and diastolic pressures. In fact, non-huggers were likely to have a rise in systolic blood pressure that was twice that of huggers. The same study found that huggers also had significantly lower heart rates than non-huggers.
Balances the Nervous System.
Giving and receiving a hug creates a galvanic skin response, which creates a change in skin conductance. Known as parasympathetic, the effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system.
Reduces feeling of loneliness and anger
Hugs have been shown to rapidly boost oxytocin levels. Without these little guys, people can have extreme feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.
Helps with Non-Verbal Communication
Hugging solidifies a person’s sense of safety and is crucial to building trust. These elements of safety and trust are of utmost importance to help with open and honest communication.
Increases Serotonin Levels
A long embrace is all it takes to create a rise in serotonin levels. Serotonin are neurotransmitters found throughout the body that, when elevated, are responsible for putting you in a better mood and creating happiness.
Stimulates the Oxytocin Neurotransmitter
Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone”, is released by our pituitary gland when you hug someone. Oxytocin lowers your heart rate and cortisol levels. This is a big deal since cortisol is a hormone that controls stress, blood pressure, and is associated with heart disease.
Increases Dopamine Production
Dopamine is the “pleasure hormone”, and hugs stimulate the brain to release it! This is where the phrase “hugs not drugs” can truly come into play, because dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, target.
Put an extra pep in your step by hugging someone! Studies show that the tactile sensations we felt as children from our family showing us love are still embedded in our nervous system. This means that you associate self-worth with hugging down to a somatic level. So every time you are hugged, your body recognizes it at a cellular level.
Who needs massages when you have hugs!? Hugging soothes and relaxes muscles by releasing tension in the body. The act of hugging increases circulation to soft tissues that takes away pain and heals aches.
So go ahead, embrace the love of your life, embrace your frenemy, and embrace random strangers on the street! Your life with thank you for it, and so will the lives of others. You didn’t have to go to medical school to treat people for common ailments and diseases. The power to heal yourself and others lies in a good ole’ bear hug.