As we age, this simple act of hugging can manifest in numerous physiological and psychological benefits, especially for seniors.
Hugging carries more than just familial affection. It also encapsulates a profound healing process for your overall wellness. In this article, we will discover into the benefits of hugging, exploring its impact on their physical health, mental well-being, and social connections. Let’s unwrap the healing of these embraces!
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Unveiling the Science of Hugging
Hugging sets off an interesting chain reaction within the body. When we embrace someone, our bodies release oxytocin, the ‘love hormone‘ or ‘cuddle chemical.’ Oxytocin has been associated with deepening social bonds and trust, reducing stress levels, and even strengthening the immune system.
Numerous scientific studies corroborate the health benefits of hugging. For instance, a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found that hugs could help individuals ward off stress-related infections and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Another study published in the journal Plos One revealed that regular hugging was linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate, which is particularly beneficial for seniors, given their susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases. These studies highlight that beyond warmth and affection, a hug holds substantial potential for bolstering seniors’ physical health.
The Benefits of Hugging
Hugging is often seen as a simple gesture of love and comfort, but the benefits of hugging go beyond emotional support. Research has shown that hugging can profoundly impact our physical and emotional well-being. The following are the various benefits of hugging in more detail:
1. Hugs Reduce Stress by Showing Your Support
Hugging is a universal sign of support and comfort. It is a non-verbal way of expressing empathy, love, and understanding, which are crucial aspects of social support. By hugging, you can show someone that they are not alone and that you are there for them, which can help alleviate feelings of loneliness, isolation, or distress.
Furthermore, hugging aids in reducing stress by diminishing the production of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” An Oxford research has found that greater frequency and longer duration of hugs directly correlate with lower stress levels, demonstrating the stress-reducing benefits of hugging.
2. Hugs May Protect You Against Illness
Hugs are more than just a comforting squeeze; they may also help boost your immune system. When you hug someone, your body responds by releasing oxytocin, a hormone that not only promotes social bonding but also plays a role in boosting immune function. The pressure from a hug can stimulate the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, helping to keep you healthy and disease-free.
A study published in Psychological Science found that individuals who experienced hugging and social support were less susceptible to developing cold symptoms following exposure to the virus. This supports the notion that hugging can have a protective effect against illness and highlights the benefits of hugging.
3. Hugs May Boost Your Heart Health
Hugging isn’t just emotionally soothing; it could also be good for your heart. Physical contact, such as hugging, has been shown to reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health. The release of oxytocin during a hug has a calming effect on the body, which may contribute to these cardiovascular benefits of hugging.
A study from the University of North Carolina reported that participants who had no physical contact with their partners experienced a faster heart rate of 10 beats per minute than those who got to hug their partners during the experiment. This suggests that hugging can be heart-healthy and underscores the benefits of hugging.
4. Hugs Can Make You Happier
There’s a reason why a good hug can make you feel happier. This is largely due to the release of hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, often called “happy hormones.” Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone, ” is released during hugging, promoting contentment and reducing anxiety and stress. Meanwhile, serotonin, which is responsible for mood balancing, is also released, further promoting happiness and well-being.
The Journal of Neuroscience found that oxytocin improved mood and increased feelings of social bonding, further demonstrating the correlation between hugging and increased happiness and the benefits of hugging.
5. Hugs Help Reduce Your Fears
Embracing someone in a hug can make you feel safe and secure, reducing fear and anxiety. This sense of safety can come from physical contact, reminding us of the care and protection we received as children.
Moreover, hugging can stimulate the release of oxytocin which generates feelings of trust and reduces fear. In a review article, researchers found that oxytocin made people less afraid of social risks, showing the fear-reducing benefits of hugging.
6. Hugs May Help Reduce Your Pain
The comfort brought by a warm hug may also help to alleviate pain. Like other forms of physical touch, hugging can trigger the release of endorphins in the brain, acting as a natural analgesic. These endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain.
A study published in Intermountain Healthcare found that hand-holding and hugging before an unpleasant physical experience led to lower pain levels, confirming the pain-reducing benefits of hugging.
7. Hugs Help You Communicate With Others
Sometimes, words are not enough to convey our feelings, and that’s where hugging occurs. Hugs can express emotions, including love, joy, gratitude, sympathy, and congratulations, more effectively than words. They are integral to our non-verbal communication, often conveying messages that words cannot.
The research discovered that through touch, people could accurately decode distinct emotions such as anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy, reinforcing that hugging can be a powerful and beneficial communication tool.
How Many Hugs Do We Need?
The benefits of hugging are undeniable, but how many hugs do we need daily to truly reap these rewards? The renowned family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need 4 hugs daily for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” This quote perfectly underscores the importance of hugging in our lives, with implications beyond mere survival.
Touch deprivation has become a growing concern today, particularly in Western societies. This is especially true in the United States, where physical touch is often reserved for close family members and romantic partners, leading to a lack of daily hugs for many individuals. It can result in diminished connection and missed opportunities to experience the benefits of hugging.
Practical Advice to Seek More Hugs
Acknowledging the numerous benefits of hugging is the first step; putting this knowledge into action and embracing more hugs in our daily lives is the next. Here, we provide practical advice on how to comfortably and respectfully seek more hugs, particularly from close family members and friends, to experience the power of this heartfelt connection.
- Communicate Openly
Start by conversing with your loved ones about the importance and benefits of hugging. Share your intentions to incorporate more hugs into your daily routine and ask for their support.
- Ask for Consent
Always ask for permission before hugging someone, even if they are close friends or family members. It respects their boundaries and ensures the hug is a mutually comfortable experience.
- Be Mindful of Timing
Choose appropriate moments to seek hugs, such as when greeting or saying goodbye, offering emotional support, or celebrating a milestone. Avoid seeking hugs during tense or awkward situations.
- Offer Hugs
Instead of always seeking hugs, offer them to others as a gesture of support, love, or comfort. It can help create a positive atmosphere where people feel more comfortable hugging one another.
- Create Hugging Rituals
Establish hugging routines, such as a family group hug before bedtime or a hug with your partner when you return home from work. These rituals can help make hugging a more regular and natural part of everyday interactions.
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