Need a reason to hug someone? Good news—January 21st is National Hug Day! Yes, there is in fact a day for everything…but when it comes to hugging, we don’t mind taking time out of our days to properly celebrate the cuddly holiday. Especially when it comes to some amazing physical and mental health benefits. Keep reading for seven great reasons to go in for a hug…and don’t rush it—researchers say that while the average hug lasts just three seconds, the feel-good benefits kick in at the 20-second mark.
Hugging improves our relationships.
When it comes to physical affection in your relationship, think beyond one-on-one time between the sheets. Lots of cuddles and hugs lead to more relationship satisfaction among men in long-term relationships, a 2011 study found.
Hugging is good for the heart—especially during conflict.
Heart health can also get a boost when you make a habit out of hugging your partner every day. In a 2009 study by the American Psychosomatic Society, researchers found that when romantic partners held hands before watching a romantic video and hugged for 20 seconds after, blood pressure and heart rate was lower when they were asked to discuss a recent stressful event.
A hug a day keeps the doctor away.
You may think hugging is a great way to spread germs around, but frequent hugs actual protect us from getting sick and result in less severe illness symptoms. “This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress,” lead researcher Sheldon Cohen explained. “The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy.”
Hugging gives us the warm-and-fuzzies.
And by warm-and-fuzzies, we’re referring to oxytocin. Hugging stimulates the neurotransmitter responsible for promoting feelings of trust and contentment while lowering stress. And higher oxytocin levels and frequent hugs between spouses or partners have been linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Touch also activates an important part of our brains. Know that happy feeling you get when you bite into your favorite chocolate? That’s your orbital frontal cortex lighting up—it’s a region of the brain the responds to delicious tastes and smells…and friendly touch.
When it comes to hugs, it’s NOT better to give than it is to receive.
Give hugs, get hugs, just don’t worry about keeping count. Touch has reciprocal benefits, researchers say—a person giving a massage experiences a reduction in stress hormones equal to the person being massaged, and a person giving a hug gets just as much benefit as the person being hugged.
Hugging may relieve existential anxiety.
We all have those “holy crap, we’re all going to die one day” moments of panic. But some, particularly those with low self-esteem, tend to view their lives as not meaningful rather than using that existential concern to live a more meaningful life. For those people, touch can be a powerful force, research says, reducing death anxiety and provide existential support. Even hugging an inanimate object like a teddy bear had benefits.
In pain? Giving yourself a hug could help.
Don’t have a loved one nearby? Cross your arm and give yourself a hug—researchers say it significantly reduces pain. The crossed arms confuse the brain, increasing sensory stimulation and reducing the brain’s capacity for pain signals. Confusing the brain is a method long-used to alleviate pain—rubbing your head when you have a headache is another example.
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