Hugs help you feel connected to the people you care about but can also bring a host of health benefits to your mind and body.
Some experts attribute the stress reducing, health related benefits to the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the bonding hormone, love hormone, or cuddle hormone. Oxytocin is released into the blood stream but some stays in the brain influencing mood, behavior, and physiology. Oxytocin is believed to decrease stress the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine and known to increase the feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
Various studies have shown some evidence that oxytocin can improve immune function and pain tolerance. Higher levels of oxytocin have shown to heal wounds faster and decrease the chance of catching colds. It also reduces depression and anxiety. Getting a good hug before entering a stressful situation could help you stay cool, calm and collected because your oxytocin levels are likely to stay elevated. You won’t know that the levels are elevated but you will still feel supported and cared about.
Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” That might sound like a lot of hugs, but it seems that many hugs are better than not enough. According to the best science, we should have as many as possible if we want to reap the greatest positive effects.
Hugs can have a huge impact on child development. Hugging can improve physical growth and development as well as social and emotional development. A young child’s growth needs a lot of different sensory inputs for normal development. Skin contact, or physical touch such as hugging, is one of the most important stimulations required to grow a healthy brain and a strong body.
In Eastern European orphanages, infants are rarely handled or touched. They often spend 22 to 23 hours of the days in their cribs. Propped bottles are used to feed them, and care is given with minimal human interaction. These children often face impaired cognitive development.
When children are deprived of physical contact, their bodies stop growing despite normal intake of nutrients. These children suffer from failure-to-thrive. This growth deficiency can be improved when nurturing touches and hugs are provided. When oxytocin is released, it triggers the growth hormone.
Hugs increase trust, reduce fear, and improve the relationship. Hugging promotes a secure attachment and improves adult-child bonding.
If you want to feel better about yourself, reduce your stress, improve communication, and be happier and healthier, it seems that giving and asking for more hugs is a good place to start.