Hugging is one of the most comforting things you can experience. Hugs can give you an emotional boost and a feeling spiritual rejuvenation. They improve relationships, encourage us to be more present, and snap us out of circular thinking habits. But aside from the obvious emotional benefits of hugging, there are some other benefits which are pretty amazing.
Hugs can dramatically reduce blood pressure and improve the health of your heart. Every time you give or receive a hug, you are literally lowering your chance of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. When you hug someone you care about, it releases a chemical known as oxytocin in the body, which is also known as the feel-good hormone because it reduces anxiety and depression. It’s the chemical associated with the feeling of love, trust, and bonding, and this is literally contagious biochemically:
“Studies have shown that children whose mothers have been given extra oxytocin have higher levels of the hormone themselves, i.e. solely as a result of the mother’s behaviour.” says neurophysiologist Jürgen Sandkühler, Head of the Centre for Brain Research at the Medical University of Vienna. So if you have more oxytocin in your body as a result of giving more hugs, the people around you in your life will have more of this chemical in their body as well due to the shift in your biochemical state and behaviour. Kind of cool right?
In an interesting study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry regarding the fear of death. The studies found that hugging helps soothe individuals “existential fears“, meaning that they were no longer afraid about mortality of the loss of their identity. Even fleeting and seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch may help people to deal more effectively with existential concern,” lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study. “Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance.”
A brief hug and 10 minutes of handholding with a romantic partner greatly reduce the harmful physical effects of stress, according to a study reported by the American Psychosomatic Society. Hugging and also been linked to improved memory due to the lowered stress levels. Even hugging trees has been showed to be linked to decreased stress and pain levels. If you were to give hugs each day, you would literally be improving the health of your heart, erasing any conscious or subsconscious fear of death, improving your memory, descreasing your stress and blood pressure, enhancing feelings of love and happiness, and lengthening your lifespan. I dare you to stop what you’re doing and give someone a hug right now!
Picture by Ambre Haller