Aug 16, 2021
3 mins read
Some love them, some hate them. However, did you know that hugs actually have a lot of health benefits? No? Well then come with me, I have things to show you!
First off, why are hugs so beneficial? What is the science behind it? Well I'm so glad you asked random citizen cause I'm going to tell you!
So, when two people embrace they release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is affectionately referred to as the 'bonding hormone'. It reduces stress, promotes stronger bonds, and turns up our social processing. Hugs more than deep pressure stimulation. Humans are social creatures, and some socialization requires touch.
1. Reduce Stress
There was a study in 2012 called "Neural Correlates of Giving to a Loved One". Where experimenters took twenty heterosexual romantic couples, and put the female in an MRI machine while the male stood just outside the scanner and received unpleasant shocks. It was concluded that support through touch benefited both the giver and receiver in dealing with their stress levels compared to the control - did not initial any physical contact. It's actually a very interesting study, if you would like to check it out, I am citing all my sources at the bottom - though some are from memory.
2. Prevent Illness
The effects of stress reduction may also help to prevent illness.
A team of researchers, led by Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, tested whether hugs act as a form of social support, protecting stressed people from getting sick.
We know from personal experience that stress can lead to illness, in fact they often go hand-in-hand. So Cohen et al. exposed 404 people to the common cold. Those who had the perceived social support, through touch, from a trusted person did not get sick, or their symptoms were much less severe than the control group who received no social support.
3. Boost Heart Health
Affection is good for your heart. Like actually though. There was a study done way back in 2003. If I find it, I will cite it, but I'm going off memory for this one. There was a large sample size of people. The control group sat in silence, and without touching, their romantic partner for 10 minutes and 20 seconds. While the testing group held hands with their romantic partner for 10 minutes, and then hugged for 20 seconds. At the end of the study, it was concluded that those who experienced the affectionate touching had a much lower heart rate and blood pressure. I personally feel bad for the control in this one. That many minutes of complete silence? Nightmare.
4. Fears & Pain
Research has found that touch has had significant positive effects of reducing stress and anxiety associated with fear and pain. Even holding something like a Teddy Bear can provide a small rush of oxytocin, which helps to return to homeostasis. Koole posited that individuals with low self-esteem would often have very high death anxiety, and supportive touching would help to reduce that. The results were as follows:
Our findings show that people may still find existential security through interpersonal touch ...
Surprise! Sorry, I'll see myself out.
Hugging is a comforting and expressive type of touch. Most of our day to day interaction is verbally, through facial expressions, or reflexive idiosyncrasies. Though we often forget that we can communicate through touch. Hugging is just one aspect. Placing a hand on another's shoulder to signal support. A hand on another's chest to maintain distance and/or convey anger.
So, with all that said, you're probably asking yourself "But how many hugs do I need a day?" Well, I'm so glad you asked inquisitive stranger. The answer is you need 8-12 hugs a day. Yeah, you read that right. Eight to twelve hugs a day. According to family therapist Virginia Satir:
We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.
So there you have it! The health benefits of hugging/touch. Also, I know we are in the midst of a pandemic, and finding a person to hold close may present a problem. So go find a tree. I'm not kidding. Trees vibrate at the same frequency as people. So go out there and hug as many trees as you need if a loved one is unavailable.
Now go spread some love, and if you haven't received a hug today here is a virtual one just for you.