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What is the effect of hugging on our health and quality of life?

Sometimes, the best things in life really are free. What’s a good example of this? Hugging! Wrapping your arms around another person, or having them do the same for you feels great. It makes you feel secure and loved. Hugging someone you care about can have positive effects on your health, happiness and quality of life too, lasting long after a short embrace. We share the benefits of hugging it out and why we all should be doing more cuddling!

Hugging encourages good health and reduces stress

How does hugging promote a healthy lifestyle? Firstly, the act of hugging encourages our muscles to relax. A good hug releases tensions across the body, often increasing circulation and soothing aches. As we age, gentle movement and exercise becomes even more vital for reducing these aches and pains. In addition, when another person touches our skin, pressure receptors called ‘Pacinian corpuscles’ send signals to the vagus nerve in the brain. The vagus nerve has the ability to slow the heart down and therefore decrease blood pressure.

Aside from reduced physical stress and blood pressure, hugging can result in a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. It’s no secret that stress is bad for us. High cortisol levels can negatively impact learning and memory abilities, weight, cholesterol and heart disease – the list goes on! 

Hugging reduces loneliness

We know that as we grow older, the possibility of loneliness becomes a genuine concern and possibility. Did you know that a shocking 3.9 million older people say that television is their main form of company? There are many ways to combat loneliness, but regular hugging is definitely a good start! Human interaction is crucial to our happiness and well-being, with physical contact making us feel secure, while also reducing our fears and worries.

Hugging improves mental well-being

In addition to reducing loneliness, regular hugging can also promote healthier mental well-being. For example, dropping everything for a long, warming hug encourages us to live in the present moment. In this sense, they have a similar effect to mediation and laughter. Plus, we have been hugging for our entire lives – the cuddles experienced as a child taught us that we are loved. So, even as adults, enjoying regular hugs can promote increased self-worth and self-esteem.

Hugging makes us happier

Finally, hugging has also been linked to the hormone ‘oxytocin’. This can sometimes be called the ‘cuddle chemical’ or ‘love hormone’! It’s released when we hug someone we care about, reducing not only our stress levels, but also supporting the important social bonding process. Some attribute this hormone to the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we embrace. Hugging also releases serotonin and endorphins which cause pleasure and reduce feelings of sadness.

So, it’s evident that hugging has a range of benefits on our physical and mental well-being. A popular saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, sums up the importance of enjoying regular hugs: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth”. This is the perfect excuse for getting as many hugs as you possibly can, every day!

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