It’s official! Getting a hug really can keep the doctor away. In this high–tech world where we communicate more through emails, texts, Tweets, and Facebook, than we do in person, human contact gets lost. This often leaves us feeling lonely and isolated.
We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and twelve hugs for growth.
According to a 2015 study from Carnegie Mellon University, touch plays an integral role in our survival as a species. It influences what we buy, what we eat, who we love, and even how we heal. We use our sense of touch to gather information about our environment and to establish social bonds with each other. Multiple studies have concluded that touch, especially hugging, provides numerous health benefits. If you’re looking for a great way to boost your immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep, lose weight, and even help depression and overall health, look no further than a hug. You don’t need a prescription. There are no side effects, and they’re free and available anywhere, any time.
The cuddles we received from Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted on our nervous systemat a cellular level. Hugs remind us of that. One of the best benefits of hugging comes from the surge of the hormone oxytocin, which leads to feelings of trust and connection. The ensuing cascade of electrical impulses slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, reducing stress. This entire complex surge of events in the brain and body are all initiated by this simple, basic, supportive touch.
The oxytocin release that comes with hugging can have a trickle-down effect throughout the body, causing a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. Oxytocin has been found to diminish inflammation following acute stroke and cardiac arrest. There’s also some evidence that oxytocin can improve immune function. A study from Carnegie Mellon University showed that healthy adults who got hugs were 32% less likely to come down with a cold.
A 2015 study from King’s College in London found that oxytocin has analgesic effects, leading to a reduction in perceived pain intensity and lower pain ratings. Oxytocin is known to increase levels of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, leaving us calmer and less anxious. This leads to less weight gain from stress eating. New studies also show oxytocin helps to regenerate muscle mass, activating muscle pathways that maintain a youthful and healthy body.
Like diet and exercise, you need a steady daily dose of hugs. Getting a firm, feel-good hug before going into a stressful situation could even help you stay calm, cool and collected during the event because your oxytocin levels are likely to stay elevated.
Research shows a hug can benefit in other ways:
1. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.
2. Hugging relaxes muscles by releasing tension in the body. It soothes aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.
3. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. They help us to connect with another person, encouraging empathy and understanding.
4. One study found hugs are more important for a couple’s happiness than sex. Hugging provides many benefits including stimulating our touch and olfactory centers. This is why the smell and touch of our partner makes us feel loved and cared for.
5. Almost seventy percent of communication is nonverbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture. Hugging is an excellent way to express ourselves.
6. Hugs help with insomnia. According to a 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, blankets filled with pellets weighing 15-30 pounds were molded to the body like a warm hug. This physical contact released serotonin, causing the nervous system to relax, enabling the user to fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.
How many times have you felt overwhelmed and frustrated? Ending one day just to look forward to the same issues tomorrow? Sometimes all we need is to know we’re not alone. That hug, that simple contact could make all the difference. Virginia Satir, a well-known psychologist, once said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and twelve hugs for growth.
Start reaping the benefits today!
Main image courtesy of: http://www.womenshealthmag.co.uk