Someone once said, “We should have 100 hugs a day to stay healthy.” This saying is a lot like having an apple a day. We hear stories that back this adage up: people waking up when those they love hold their hand or how important it is to hold babies as they begin their life’s journey. Touch is a powerful way to communicate with others. One article found on the Good News Network is about making physical connections with each other through hugs that conveys how much each person means to one another.
On a less extreme note, touch affects our response to daily conflicts we experience. A group of researchers interviewed 404 adults for 14 days regarding their health and any conflicts. Additionally, the researchers inquired how these adults felt emotionally and whether or not they received hugs. The people who had some form of interpersonal conflict and were hugged reported feeling happier and more grounded for the day. A bonus is that the hug helps both people involved!
Keep the Doctor Away…
On another note, research has produced “evidence that hugging may favorably influence the rate of infection from a cold as well as symptoms.” Also, hugs help reduce blood pressure and relieve stress. When we hug, we get a good boost of the love hormone oxytocin.
Hugs are not the only form of touch that helps us feel better mentally and physically. Other types of touch that share the same beneficial elements are holding hands and massage. Most of us know that massage can decrease pain related to a variety of conditions, such as back pain and migraines. “[Physical touch] affects the biochemistry that mediates pain or sadness and can also lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol, improve immune responses, stimulate the vagus nerve, and change EEG (brain wave) patterns.” One example is premature babies, where light massage for 15 minutes over a week caused a significant increase in necessary weight gain. This is a complementary study to the Romanian orphans mentioned above, where massage helps babies flourish.
Overall, we can see a clear connection between hugs, our health and happiness. The physical connection not only decreases stress but also helps nourish and heal us so we can recover and grow. It is remarkable that we naturally can help care for and heal each other. If we reach out and connect with each other, we can find ourselves to be happier and healthier.
If we are not able to get a physical hug, there are a variety of tools that help simulate hugs, like a weighted blanket. Also, we can get a similar effect when we see images of other people hugging or a gentle touch. “This work is consistent with Envision Kindness’ own research on how images of kindness and compassion—many of which capture caring touch or hugging—are a proven and potent way to induce joy, love, optimism, and connection. Thus, by simply looking at these images, people can experience lower levels of stress and greater joy.”
Of course, viewing images of people or animals hugging needs to be rounded out by the real thing when possible. Very few things are perfect substitutes, hugs are best from those you love and have a caring connection with. A hug is a gift to someone else and to yourself.