· By Petra Banks
Hugs For Health and Happiness
Touch is a fundamental human need. The first of the five senses developed from the moment of birth to play a primary role in the development through your childhood and adult life. Touch is essential to cognitive development, communication and your physical and mental well-being. The need for positive touch and meaningful connection shapes who you are biologically. Through touch, you learn how to communicate love, compassion, gratitude, and tenderness, as well as emotions of fear and anger.
As a person who’s first primary language of love is physical touch, I know just how powerful and essential it is to my overall happiness. For me, physical contact creates emotional closeness and communicates feelings of care. It nourishes me in so many ways; it’s where I feel truly seen and connected to my partner and the people around me. You know the saying- “a hug is worth more than a thousand words”, for me this couldn’t be truer. Think about the times you’ve had a good hug or felt you’ve needed one. Hugging can be incredibly therapeutic and provide emotional comfort and healing. Let’s take a look at how hugging can benefit your health, overall happiness and well-being.
1. Hugs can Reduce Stress and Anxiety
A good hug when you’re going through a rough time can help relieve the extra stress you might be feeling. Not only that, but it can also reduce the stress levels of the person who is comforting you. That’s a double win! If you’ve got anxiety related to a particular day or a big event, getting a solid hug in beforehand can help calm your nerves and help you stay stress-free during the event itself. Research shows this is thanks to a rise in oxytocin levels during hugging, also known as the “bonding or love hormone.” Oxytocin is a direct influencer of mood and behaviour, and it can produce feelings of trust as well as the excellent side effect of reducing stress.
2. Hugs can Increase Self-Esteem
The power of hugs and positive touch influences you from infancy. It’s during this crucial time where you learn that this touch is a sign of love and affection and connected to your feelings of self-worth. As adults, we remember these feelings deep at the cellular level of our bodies, and this is why when you’re feeling poorly about yourself a hug can transform those feelings of self-doubt into feelings of higher self-esteem and self-worth.
3. Hugs can Make you Happy
You might have been able to deduce this one already: hugs make you happier. But do you know why this is? Human touch is associated with a rise in dopamine and serotonin production. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, meaning it sends signals from the body to the brain. It is most commonly associated with feelings of pleasure and the brain’s reward system. Serotonin is also a neurotransmitter, but unlike dopamine which brings about positive emotions based on a specific action, serotonin is responsible for maintaining your mood balance. Serotonin also aids with appetite, digestion, sleep and memory, to name a few. When we have a sufficient flow of serotonin, we feel happy and significant. When serotonin levels are low or absent, this may lead to feelings of sadness and depression.
The point is: hugging increases serotonin levels in the body, making us happier!
4. Hugs can Lower your Risk of Heart Disease
Hugs are essential for your physical health, as well. During the physical sensation of touch, the pressure receptors located on your skin activate. These receptors, called Pacinian Corpuscles, send signals to an area of your brain that is directly responsible for lowering blood pressure, among its other vital duties. Hugs have also shown to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is one of the hormones released during the “fight or flight” reaction in the body when we expose ourselves to stressful situations. Lowering cortisol levels can help lower your heart rate and ease blood flow.
5. Hugs can Strengthen Relationships
Hugging can play a role in the feelings of security, trust and safety within a relationship. Relationships that express physical touch daily are proven to be strong and long-lasting. When you come into contact with another person, you create an exchange of energy; this can encourage strong feelings of empathy and mutual understanding.
There you have it. Those fantastic feelings you get after sharing a good hug with a friend or loved one isn’t just in your head - science has proven that your body and brain both react to positive physical human touch. So give and get some quality hugs in today, you’ll feel happier, more relaxed and strengthen your relationships!