Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist, once said:
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
There are moments in time when no present in the world could boost the sense of belonging, of being accepted and appreciated for what you are. Hugs are designed for that, as they are simple and pure manifestations of empathy.
So what’s the science behind it?
Hugs improve levels of oxytocin, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, allowing you to restore your emotional balance. Oxytocin also helps by lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels (cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease).
A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgment of another person.
Think about it, how many times have you just felt better from a good hug?!
Affection also helps in the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. The University of Miami School of Medicine has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant positive effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.
Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the solar plexus chakra which stimulates the thymus gland, regulating the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.
With almost 70% of communication being nonverbal, the interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal.
Hugs stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Low dopamine levels play a role in the neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for self-motivation!
Hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels. When released, these improve feelings of pleasure and negate pain and sadness. They also decrease the chances of getting heart problems, help fight excess weight and prolong life.
Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Anyone with a pet will know this already!
Hugging for an extended time lifts our serotonin levels, lifting our mood and creating feelings of happiness.
But as we became more and more confined in our in our own lives, with stress for jobs, worries and social norms, we also got uneasy to ask or to offer hugs, despite their health enhancing effects.
So don’t hold back, give a someone a hug today, it’s good for their health and yours