Do you prefer to be greeted with a hug or a handshake? If you fall into the latter category, you might want to understand the health benefits of hugging. That giant purple dinosaur, it turns out, was onto something when he determined that hugs should be the default welcome. We all know how comforting hugs can be at difficult times, so why not make them a regular part of your day? We’ve listed a few reasons why you should do so.
You know how too much coffee can make us feel jittery for several hours? Hugging, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. This, like so many other invisible advantages, may be traced back to good old hormones. Hugging and other forms of interpersonal touch, according to some experts, can increase the hormone oxytocin while also affecting our endogenous opioid system. Aren’t those big words? But it all boils down to this: simply hugging can cause our brains to release relaxing hormones, making us feel more secure and less threatened throughout the day. As a result, when something traumatic occurs, we don’t have such a strong fight-or-flight response.
Okay, this benefit is related to the last one. Perhaps you’ve observed how much simpler it is to get sick when you’re anxious. That’s because when we’re stressed, our immune system goes into overdrive, which can actually make us more susceptible to illness. According to one study, people who were hugged and felt socially supported had fewer symptoms of illness.
A study conducted by the University of North Carolina with 59 women yielded some interesting results. Some ladies closed each session with a 20-second hug after a short sequence of inquiries and general chit-chat about their boyfriend. During challenging phases of testing, the ladies who received a hug from their partners had lower blood pressure and heart rates. The researchers believe that oxytocin (which we discussed earlier) seems to be responsible for their improved heart health.
When you’re feeling down, we can all agree that nothing beats a hug. This idea was taken to a systematic level by a senior home in New York, which implemented a program that embraced this. More communication between senior residents and staff members was encouraged in order to promote the residents’ well-being. Residents who received three or more hugs each day reported feeling less gloomy, having more energy, being able to concentrate better, and sleeping better.
Try a hug instead of a handshake the next time you go in for a handshake and see how you feel!