The Power Of A Hug: How Hugs Make You Feel Better All Over
There’s no denying that a hug from a friend, partner, or parent can make all the worries of the world fly out the window. Did you know that an adult human needs four hugs a day for survival? We enjoy hugging our loved ones when we’re excited, happy, or want to share comfort but were you aware that hugging doesn’t just help your loved one feel better but a hug makes you feel better too?
Seems like there are many benefits of hugging that are not limited to the one getting hugged. Turns out, hugging can help us, the ones giving the hugs, feel happier and healthier.
Human touch, the one thing that we were starved of during the coronavirus pandemic, is something we have been taking for granted for a long time. A consensual and wanted hug from a loved one can not only act as a warm greeting but can be therapeutic too.
A hug helps us strengthen our bonds and gives us a feeling of safety, comfort, and calm but there are other benefits of hugging that we’ll be exploring in this article!
So, let’s get started!
Why does a hug feel good?
Why does a hug feel good? What’s in a hug? Well, the well-guarded secret is…wait for it…Oxytocin, the love hormone! This happy hormone plays a huge role in female reproduction, especially during pregnancy, childbirth, and the eventual bonding with the newborn. Oxytocin, the hormone, can also help increase feelings of attachment, trust, and love in relationships.
Oxytocin is released when you experience love and pleasure and one of the best ways to activate the love hormone is through, you guessed it – a HUG!
Hugs, for a very long time, have served a purpose. These little gestures help us identify who’s safe and who isn’t. Centuries ago, stressors used to be being chased by hungry predators and while hungry predators are not a pressing stressor anymore, other day-to-day stressors have entered our lives.
However, no matter how our stressors change, our nervous systems are still capable of recognizing stress. Interestingly, the nervous system isn’t very adaptable at differentiating between emotional and physical stressors. So no matter your cause of distress, rest assured that a physical, comforting hug will help you (and your nervous system) feel better and calmer.
Getting a comforting embrace can be therapeutic and healing. Let’s take a look at how hugs make you feel better.
How Hugs Make You Feel Better?
1. It Reduces Stress
When you’re hugged during a stressful time, it can help reduce stress. Experts in the field believe that giving someone emotional support through touch can help decrease the stress of the one being hugged and the one giving the hug too. In a study, it was found that between twenty heterosexual couples, men who were given electric shocks, held hands with their female partners.
During the study, it was found that parts of the women partners’ brains that were linked with stress displayed a reduced response whereas the parts of the brains linked with maternal comfort showed a higher response.
2. It Protects Your Immunity
Did you know that the power of hugs extends to your immune system as well? In a study, it was found that hugs can lower the risk of a person getting sick. Over 400 participants of the study showed that with a solid support system, they were less likely to feel sick. And even those who got sick, with a supportive partner had less severe symptoms than those with no support system.
3. It Boosts Your Health
When you hug someone for a long time or are being hugged by someone, it can also assure a boost to your health. In another interesting study with about 200 adults, it was found that the group with a romantic partner who held hands for 10 minutes and a 20-second hug showed lower blood pressure levels and heart rates than the other group who sat in silence for the same duration.
4. It Makes You Happy
A hug can release oxytocin and this hormone is considered one of the four happy hormones. So when you cuddle, embrace, or hug someone, you feel happy and less anxious. This hormone can have greater effects on women. The love hormone can reduce blood pressure and norepinephrine, a stress hormone.
In a study, it was shown that women who had healthy relationships and who received frequent hugs had positive health, overall.
5. It Reduces Fear Response
Researchers have also found that tight hugs help anxiety and lower the fear response. This power of a hug can also work on keeping people from withdrawing into themselves and increasing self-esteem. Even a tight hug with an inanimate object can help reduce the fear response.
6. It Reduces Pain
“Hug it better?” Well, it turns out that hugs can make pain feel better. In a study of people with fibromyalgia, it was found that light therapeutic touching during treatments reported reduced pain and higher life satisfaction.
7. It Improves Communication
Well, not all people are adept at using their words to express comfort and feelings. Many people choose their actions over words and hugs can help! Touch is a love language that is greatly underestimated if you look closely at it. A hug can work as a great communication tool to express emotions ranging from love and gratitude to anger and sympathy.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Hugs?
When you don’t receive enough hugs for a long time, it can leave some kind of impression in your brain. Hugging activates the same parts of your brain that eating does. So when I say that someone is starved for affection, then I mean it quite literally.
Not receiving enough hugs can cause:
- Increased stress
- Trouble feeling emotions
- Attachment problems
- Personality disorders
- Increased pain and aches
- Poor sleep
Will Hugs Make You Feel Better?
First and foremost, you can’t go wrong with a hug. Getting one hug a day is important and this fact is even supported by science so you know you can’t go wrong with a hug! Try to squeeze in a 10-second or more hug a day.
However, there might be times when you can’t get a hug from a loved one. For those times, I have a solution for you. Can you guess?
You’re right – Self-hug!
Who says self-hug doesn’t have the same benefits as hugging? Even if it sounds silly, put your arms around yourself and hug yourself tight. It might be confusing and uncomfortable but your brain will ultimately get the signal that you’re being hugged and will continue to carry out its necessary function.
Hug yourself tight, just like you want. Do this for as long as you need.
If you’re still not comfortable with hugging yourself, you can go hug your pet. Cuddling with your pet can also be considered hugging. This quick snuggle with your fur baby will also release oxytocin, the same way hugging a human would. So want a hug? Go hug your fur baby!
Did you know that snuggling or petting an animal can be therapeutic and can help form attachment the same way it does for human connection? Fascinating, isn’t it?
If you’re feeling blue or touch-starved, then you can reach out to a friend, partner, family member, or a trusted person to hug you. The power of a hug is not limited to releasing happy hormones but can also help reduce stress, pain, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. A hug can not only have physical and emotional but mental benefits too.
You can always give yourself a tight comforting hug but if you’re not comfortable with it, you can always seek out a pet to cuddle with. If your loneliness and depressive feelings are not ebbing, then maybe consider speaking to a mental health professional. They can help you address any lingering issues and negative emotions. They can also provide you with healthy coping mechanisms to deal with unpleasant feelings.
“I have learned that there is more power in a good strong hug than in a thousand meaningful words.” – Ann Hood
I hope this article helped you understand how hugging makes you feel better and how you can go about reaping the benefits of hugging. For more, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a message on social media.
Have some tips and thoughts to share with us? Drop them in the comments below.