Hugs… we all give them away. Some are solid bear hugs with a tight squeeze, maybe even with a slight swaying side to side, and others are light-hearted hugs. Or, if hugging the opposite sex, a nice side hug with a touch of the ribs and shoulders may be more appropriate. We all love hugs. At least most of us do, and here is why I think you should consider doubling up your efforts on hugging.
1. Hugging releases oxytocin, a chemical that has been linked to happiness and social bonding. According to research at DePauw University, oxytocin promotes the feelings of trust and devotion.
The catch is the longer, the better. In order to fully release the oxytocin in your body and the person you are hugging, it needs to be at least 6 seconds, although a super-long 20-second hug will maximize this.
Hugging your loved ones just a bit longer will strengthen your bond to each other.
2. As a child, we all remember the comforting aid from a parent after we were injured or woke up from a scary dream – comfort that always started and ended with a hug. The act of your mother or father holding you. Hugs are clearly something humans use naturally as a way to physically say “I love you.”
3. Believe it or not, hugging can actually reduce your blood pressure. Activating pressure receptors in your body, they send signals to the part of your brain responsible for lowering your blood pressure. Dang, bet Quaker Oatmeal didn’t see that one coming. Instead of eating this horrible hot breakfast, you can just cook some eggs instead and offer up some hugs in the morning.
4. Romantic hugs keep the heart strong, literally! In 2009, a study by the American Psychosomatic Society revealed that partners who engaged in hand holding and a 20-second hug before speaking about a stressful situation had a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure than participants who were left alone to rest quietly without their partners before speaking.
Here are their findings:
- Blood pressure soared in the no-contact people. Their systolic reading jumped 24 points, more than double the rise for the huggers, and their diastolic also rose significantly higher.
- The non-huggers also saw their heart rate increase 10 beats a minute, compared to the huggers, who only saw an increase of 5 beats while discussing a stressful situation.
5. It reduces stress. In other studies on touch, researchers have found that the human touch lowers output of cortisol, a stress hormone. But it goes even further, because not only does the human touch reduce stress levels, but it also increases serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that make you feel good.
6. Maximize your hugs with romance. Unfortunately, hugging random people doesn’t have near the effect on hugging people you are in love with. A University of Miami Medical School study discovered that nothing releases good brain chemicals into the body compared to a person you are romantically involved with.
7. Forgetting about all the scientific studies, hugging feels good. Squeezing your children, wrapping your arms around your spouse, or welcoming a friend into your life, the act itself is very rewarding for both parties. It’s also hard to be upset when you are hugging someone.
I start each day with tons of hugs to my wife and 3 children in the morning. Our children make it onto our bed every morning for a good 10 to 15 minutes, where each of us takes turns hugging and tickling one another. I imagine when my kids are older, this will cease forever, which makes me cherish each and every morning this routine stays alive.