Hugging for your Health
We all know that hugs make us happier, but can they really keep you healthy?
As little kids we were told about an apple a day, but can a hug a day really keep the doctor away too? Recent studies have shown that “hugging protects people who are under stress from the increased risk for colds [that’s] usually associated with stress,” notes study lead author Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. Hugging “is a marker of intimacy and helps generate the feeling that others are there to help in the face of adversity.”
Some experts attribute the stress-reducing, health-related benefits of hugging to the release of oxytocin, often called “the bonding hormone” because it promotes attachment in relationships, including between mothers and their newborn babies. Oxytocin is made primarily in the hypothalamus in the brain, and some of it is released into the bloodstream through the pituitary gland. But some of it remains in the brain, where it influences mood, behavior and physiology. How hugging fits in: “When you’re hugging or cuddling with someone, [he or she is] stimulating pressure receptors under your skin in a way that leads to a cascade of events including an increase in vagal activity, which puts you in a relaxed state,” explains psychologist Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. One theory is that stimulation of the vagus nerve triggers an increase in oxytocin levels.”(1)
Science is proving what our mom’s and even common sense has proven throughout our lives, kindness and love has amazing healing properties. When we feel stressed our bodies suffer, but when we feel that reassurance, support and a simply put gesture of love – it thrives.
I have started an experiment where I am hugging people I love at least 30 seconds a day. It seems silly, but so far, the results are amazing. I feel very happy doing it and the person I am hugging seems happier. It’s not a scientific study but does it have to be? Just go ahead and hug someone.