All of us love having a snuggle beneath the blankets. Whether with a pet, a significant other or even an inviting bottle of scotch, such a practice is part of human nature. Hugging is normally used to express trust, comfort and love to family and friends. While all of us are familiar with these warm and fuzzy feelings, you might be surprised to see hugs can be viewed similar to vitamins in regards to their health effects.
I was going through a rather dark time in my life a few years ago. I happened upon a study which highlighted the importance of common behaviours such as hugging and holding hands. Not only were these practices found to decrease perceived levels of fear and anxiety, but other concerns such as low self-esteem and even our notion of mortality can be modified. It is also interesting to note that hugging inanimate objects can have a similar effect. This is why I keep a plush penguin close by for those lonely nights.
The Science Behind Hugs
Hugs boost our levels of happiness thanks to a feel-good hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin is known for its ability to promote positive feelings and to calm the nervous system. Here are some other scientifically proven health benefits of hugs:
- Hugs reduce anxiety.
- They lower blood pressure levels.
- They counteract the effects of a stress-related hormone known as cortisol.
- They promote feelings of social belonging.
- Hugs encourage a sound night of sleep.
It has even been shown that hugging may be able to strengthen the immune system while reducing the perceived severity of pain. This is why experts recommend a minimum of four hugs every day. So, it should come as no shock that couples who regularly hug are shown to have more fulfilling relationships.
One Important Health Catch
However, we should mention that the hug needs to be “good”. In other words, it needs to last for a minimum of 20 seconds. It is also a good idea to put science aside for a moment. The simple fact of the matter is that we all require affection. This is much more preferable than relying solely upon medication.
As you know, I often write about healthy principles such as eating right, practicing sports, taking vitamins and embracing a balanced lifestyle. It is still a fact that a healthy soul equates to a healthy body. So, be sure to obtain your daily dosage of hugs!