The Power of Hugs

April 27, 2021

An abstract painting of several figures hugging in a semicircle.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hugs matter! One hug from the right person takes all your stress away. Hugs also have fabulous healing benefits.

Are you a hug or a handshake kind of person? If you’re the latter, you might want to reconsider the power a hug can have on your health. We hug others when we’re excited, happy and also sad—or in order to comfort someone who is. Hugging is instinctive and universal.

We all know hugs can be so consoling during hard times. It turns out that hugging is also proven to make us healthier, hastier and happier. So why not start make it a regular part of your day?

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It is also the fastest growing. It regenerates at an amazing rate—you sport a new coat of skin every month. Skin acts as our body’s defense against the external world, as well as our brain’s collector of external data. Skin contact is essential for our overall well-being.

Oxytocin production swells up when we are touched by another caring person. Our bodies are made to provide and respond to physical comfort, so next time you see someone in pain or feel as if the world is crumbling around you, open up to a hug!

The healing process can begin with a touching embrace. It’s just that simple.

Benefits of Hugs

1. Hugs reduce stress.

When a friend or family member is dealing with something painful or unpleasant in their lives, give them a hug. Giving support through touch can reduce the stress of the person being comforted. It can even reduce the stress of the person doing the comforting.

2. Hugs may protect you against illnesses.

The stress-reducing effects of hugging might also work to keep you healthier, reducing the chance that you’ll get sick. In experiments, those with greater support systems are less likely to get sick and, if do become ill, have less severe symptoms than those with little or no support system.

3. An affectionate relationship may be good for you, and hugs may boost your heart health.

4. Hugs can make you happier.

Oxytocin is a chemical in our bodies that scientists sometimes call the “cuddle hormone.” This is because its levels rise when we hug, touch, or sit close to someone else. Oxytocin is associated with happiness and less stress. Oxytocin causes a reduction in blood pressure and of the stress hormone norepinephrine.

5. Hugs help reduce your fears.

Touch can reduce anxiety in people with low self-esteem.

6. Hugs may help reduce your pain.

Touch is capable of reducing pain and hugging is a form of touch.

7. Hugs help you communicate.

Most human communication occurs verbally and through facial expressions, but touch is another important way that people can send messages to one another.

An abstract painting of several figures hugging in a semicircle.

Untitled by Anita Wexler

A stranger is capable of expressing a wide range of emotions to another person by touching different parts of their body. Some emotions expressed include anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, happiness, sadness, and sympathy.

Hugging is a very comforting and communicative type of touch.

How many hugs do we need?

We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth. While that may sound like a lot of hugs, wouldn’t you agree that too many hugs are better than too few?

We should nab as many hugs as possible if we want to reap the greatest positive effects for optimal health. So, if you want to feel better about yourself, reduce your stress, improve communication, and be both happier and healthier, it seems that giving and asking for more hugs is a great place to start.

If you feel nervous about seeking out more hugs, start by asking for them from friends and family members closest to you first.

Hugging benefits the giver and receiver. It takes two or more to hug it out. Often, we embrace or hold our children when they’re in need of comfort. But as it turns out, this little act of love can also offer stress-reducing benefits for the giver. Comforting touch, like hugs, reside on a two-way street!

How to Give a Good Hug

Hug someone for at least twenty seconds. Make it a good bear hug to show how much you care.

Provide the Heart to Heart Hug: Raise your left arm up to wrap it over the upper right shoulder of your hugging partner, leaving your right arm low to wrap around their midsection just below their left arm.

The best part of hugging is that it is a non-pharmacological, non-invasive, universal expression of love and care. It’s the gift that gives back because we cannot hug someone without getting the same reaction we provide.

It’s often the simplest, and therefore overlooked, things that hold the most power. Hugs were here long before healers and could even contend to be the latter’s original, evolutionary predecessor.

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Alyona Ninichuk
1 month ago

I found this very helpful … thanks so much for the insight!

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