Before I launch into the benefits of hugging I want to share with you a wonderful sentiment. Virginia Satir – a renowned family therapist and social worker said “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” She obviously thought hugs are a magical thing but also a necessity in life. So let’s take a look at some of the wonderful benefits of hugging.
1. Hugs Prevent Illness and Disease
Although hugs are best known simply for how good they feel, one of the benefits of hugging include the prevention of disease. Over 100 studies from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami seem to provide evidence that affectionate hugging and touching reduces stress, which in itself reduces diseases. However, hugging can also contribute to reduced pain, improved immune systems in people with cancer, and deceased autoimmune disease symptoms.
2. Hugging Raises Feel-good Chemicals in Our Bodies
A number of chemicals are involved in our sense of well-being, and hugging helps elevate those chemicals in our bodies. Chemicals such as serotonin, endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin help us feel pleasure, motivation and contentment. Serotonin is thought to be important in mood balance. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in our brains to reduce pain and increase the sense of euphoria. Dopamine controls the brains pleasure centers, and oxytocin plays a role in bonding behaviors and in known as the love hormone. Even hugging pets increases these chemicals. .
3. Hugging Increases Self-esteem
Hugs are often associated with feeling loved and special. Usually this stems from experiences many of us had as children, where we were the beneficiaries of a great deal of touching and hugging from our parents. Because hugging children affects them their entire lives, and infant will even fail to thrive without adequate touch, touching and hugging children is immensely important. Hugs lead to our ability to feel loved by others and to love ourselves, increasing our self-esteem.
4. Hugs Calm Men down
Research from the University of California suggests that men may benefit a great deal more from hugs than previously thought. Far from being the macho and stoic characters portrayed in the media and entertainment, men in the study frequently admitted they needed a hug once in a while to make them feel better. Hugs tend to make men more affectionate, helps them bond socially and form relationships better. In test subjects, libido and sexual performance was also increased. Although women benefit more from the effects of hugs then men do, generally speaking, the benefit men get from hugging might often be overlooked.
5. Hugs Are a Form of Communication
Did you ever notice how, sometimes, there simply aren’t words for the things you wish you could say? Hugs can communicate encouragement, empathy, affection, desire, happiness, and a multitude of other emotions. When friends communicate bad news or happy news, hugs are usually appropriate. When people are happy to see each other, a hug often follows. Even complete strangers may hug each other when faced with extraordinary circumstances.
6. Hugs Balance out the Nervous System
Our skin actually changes it’s conductivity in response to hugs. When someone receives a hug, the pressure sensors on our skin communicate with the brain and the brain changes the skin’s conductance. The effect, which affects both moisture and electricity, suggests more balance in the parasympathetic nervous system.
7. Hugging as Therapy
Hugging is so great for us that it’s actually used therapeutically. Deep pressure touch is the most therapeutic kind of touch, and is the kind of pressure applied during hugging, holding, stroking, the petting of animals, or the swaddling of babies. Both humans and animals respond positively to deep pressure touch, particularly people with psychiatric disorders or autism. When those people cannot tolerate human touch well, a “hug simulator” can be used. Animals tend to be calmed by a firm loving hand from their caregivers, and farm animals, for example, may sometimes be placed in a squeeze chute to calm them down during inoculation.
Now you know the benefits of hugging nothing should hold you back from giving or receiving a squeeze. Who are you going to bestow the gift of a hug to today?