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Hug Therapy: 6 Little-Known Benefits of Hugging

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Everybody loves being hugged, and it’s not just because of the warm feeling, you get from a good hug. It goes deeper than this to your hormonal level. Hug therapy affects your entire body to an extent scientists claim is comparable to the effects of some drugs. Even the most trivial instance of touch can help you deal with one or more emotional issues to help you see clearly and deal with life from the point of strength.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top benefits of hugging, and how hug therapy makes you feel happier.

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What is Hug Therapy?

Hug therapy, or hugging therapy, is using hugs to provide emotional comfort and healing. Research has shown that hugging can be an effective way of treating stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness and certain medical conditions.  The benefits of hugging come from the power of touch. As humans, we crave interaction with other humans.

From the comfort of being held in the womb to being held by parents as a baby, the need to be touched and held doesn’t go away as an adult. In fact, our desire to be touched and hugged even increases as we’re older because we don’t typically get it on a daily basis.

Now that you have a better understanding of what hug therapy is, let’s take a look at how it can benefit your health.

1. Reduces the Fear of Death

Research published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences about fear and self-esteem reveals that touch and hugs play a significant role in reducing the fear of death. The research, conducted by the VU University Amsterdam, goes to show that hugging even an inanimate item like a teddy bear can help sooth your existential fears. The interpersonal touch has a very powerful effect on you.

According to the lead researcher, Sander Koole, we are all aware that someday we will die, but people with self-esteem issues in many cases consider their existence as meaningless. Touching such a person can instill some confidence in them to help them deal with their fear of mortality.

2. Treats Age-Induced Loneliness

As you age, hugging and touch become increasingly important. As you age, you become more physically fragile, hence the increased need for contact for good health according to researchers at Ohio State University. The age-induced loneliness has been shown to increase stress levels and can have adverse health effects. When you hug someone, you give them an instant feeling of closeness, therefore, decreasing the sense of loneliness that is not good for the immune health.

Chronic stress has been shown to have a similar effect to inflammatory immune disrupting effects on your body and loneliness can act as a source of chronic stress. However, close connections with your aging loved ones can help them create the social connection they need and live happier lives.

3. Stimulates Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a crucial neurotransmitter that helps your brain’s emotional center promote feelings like contentment and reduces anxiety and stress. It is released during childbirth to make your mother forget about all the pain she has endured to show you pure love.

Research has also shown that oxytocin is what makes males better at social bonding and affectionate. It increases your sexual performance, therefore, the more you hug your partner, the better your libido.

Oxytocin has been linked to lower heart rate and blood pressure, making your cardiovascular system healthy at any age. When you hug someone, this neuropeptide is released into the body lowering your cortisol level and heart rates. Cortisol is the infamous stress hormone that raises your blood pressure and brings about heart diseases if not checked.

When you hug, this love drug, oxytocin, calms your nervous system and boosts your positive emotions. If you are feeling anxious, it lowers your blood pressure; it lowers cortisol to give you better sleep quality and increases your social connections to provide a sense of belonging. Studies have shown that couples who hug more are likely to stay together longer than those who don’t hug regularly. The hug therapy should last more than 20 seconds for you to enjoy the benefits.

Another study carried out at the University of North Carolina showed that when you embrace someone, your heart is warmed and is also a good medicine for it. Those who did not have any contact with their partners showed a higher heart rate by 10 beats per minute compared to those who hugged whose rate increased by 5 beats per minute. There is no easier and loving medicine for the heart than hug therapy.

4. Well-Hugged Babies Are Less Stressed as Adults

If you want to build a better future generation, start hugging them today when they are still little. A study at Emory University showed a link between touch and stress relief in the early stages of life. When babies are hugged when they are little, they will be better prepared to deal with stress as adults.

For years, researchers have suspected that the biological responses we make towards stress may be developed early in life, and the study from Emory University confirmed this relationship between touch and stress. When you give high-quality maternal-infant interactions with your baby, it is very beneficial to the development of the young one according to Paul Plotsky of Emory University.

5. A Healthier Immune System

Hug therapy goes a long way to regulating your hormones including:

  • Dopamine: Gives us the feel-good sensation.
  • Serotonin: Negates pain and elevates good moods.
  • Oxytocin: Responsible for the sense of satisfaction.

When your hormones are balanced, your immune system is also well regulated. And a properly functioning immune system means a healthy life.

Having a hormonal balance will help your body remain relaxed, handle varying levels of stress and naturally boost your immune system.

6. Parasympathetic Balance

When you hug, your nervous system is naturally balanced. The skin contains millions of tiny networked pressure centers known as the Pacinian corpuscles that are connected to the brain to send pressure senses. Research has shown that when you hug, there is a skin conductance change. When your skin shows moisture and elasticity, then your nervous system is well balanced.

More Facts About Hugging

Here are some more interesting facts about hugging and hug therapy!

  • People spend averagely one hour each month hugging. Considering an average hug is 10 seconds long, this is a lot of hugs.
  • A full body hug effectively stimulates your nervous system; therefore, combats fear, decreases the feelings of loneliness, increase self-esteem, defuses tension and improves appreciation.
  • Children who are not hugged show a delay in walking, talking and reading.
  • Giving a quick hug has immeasurable and instant health benefits like lowering heart rate, calming the mind and generating an upbeat mood.
  • Hugging helps the person receiving it as well as the giver to reveal the reciprocal nature of touching.
  • Touch is a universal language that can communicate love and emotions with precision the world over.
  • Helps balance white cells production by stimulating your thymus gland and activating the Solar Plexus Chakra.
  • Hugging cultivates your patience and showing of appreciation.
  • A study showed that touch can reveal underlying emotions like love, fear, anger, gratitude, disgust and sympathy accurately to about 83%.

Give Hug Therapy a Try!

The next time you’re feeling stressed out, down or anxiety is getting the best of you, give hug therapy a try. Give your loved one, pet or even a stuffed animal a big hug and relieve your stress and tension!

Additional Resources

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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