Many of us started noticing the human touch in a way we never had before the pandemic. For those of us who were under lockdown alone for months, without friends or family, missed it. The benefits of human touch, go beyond just spreading joy. Human touch can make us feel grounded, safe, secure, and loved. That’s the power of touch. That’s the power of a single hug.
Giving and receiving hugs on the daily is known to promote our physical and mental well-being. Since January 23 marks the observance of National Hugging Day in the USA, we reached out to Dr Miloni Sanghvi, Psychologist and Outreach Associate at MpowerMinds, to break down the benefits of hugging for us. Read on to know why you should make hugging a part of your daily routine (with consent, of course)!
One tends to feel less stressed, and perhaps even let out a sigh of relief, when they receive a warm embrace. Professor Tiffany Field from the University of Miami explains that hugging “stimulates pressure sensors under the skin that send messages to the vagus nerve”. As the vagus nerve activity increases, our nervous system slows down, decreasing our heart rate, blood pressure and our cortisol (stress) levels.
As social beings, we love to feel loved by others. Hugging fulfils this innate need. Hugging releases the hormone oxytocin, AKA “the cuddle hormone”. The release of oxytocin has shown to have soothing effects and is linked to feelings of happiness. Oxytocin is also the hormone that is released during sex and after childbirth—both are joyful, intimate experiences of when you’re bonding with a loved one.
In addition to feeling loved, hugging can boost our confidence. A study conducted at UCLA shows that oxytocin-release is linked to improved self-esteem. A hug is a relational act and at the most fundamental level, we’re expressing to the recipient that we care for them. A simple reminder that we are capable of being loved and of giving love, can boost our confidence remarkably.
The stress-reducing effects of hugging have also shown to keep us physically healthier in the long run and protect us against physical illnesses. In a study by Cohen and his colleagues with over 400 participants, they found that hugging may reduce the chance of a person falling sick. The participants who perceived themselves as having strong social support and received hugs regularly were less likely to get sick. This group experienced lesser severe symptoms and/or recovered more quickly in comparison to their counterparts who had little or no support and did not receive hugs.
During a time when a loved one is suffering a substantial personal or professional loss, we hug the grieving to provide them with a sense of comfort and security. It’s our way of communicating “I’m here with you“ and “We’ll get through this”. These relational cues help alleviate a sense of isolation that one may feel in distressing times.
Whether you hug someone to celebrate a victory or simply to show affection, you are displaying warmth and happiness and connecting more deeply with each other. You are opening up your arms wide and physically inviting someone into your personal space. Its energy is felt in the present moment; a shared present moment.
In our ever-busy lives, we are spending long hours online, browsing through social media and consuming information digitally. As a consequence, we are reducing our physical interactions. This increases a sense of isolation and disconnect and leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
A simple remedy? Hugs!
Whether you’re hugging your spouse, parent, child, sibling, relative, friend, teacher or your beloved fur baby, ensure that you get in your daily dose of hugging. You may even want to make it the first thing you do after you wake up and the last thing before you go to bed.
Hugging may not come naturally to you, you may feel nervous about embracing someone. Start by asking family or friends that you feel closest to; they may just be pleasantly surprised.
There’s abundant research to show that hugging has numerous positive effects on the brain and body. The hug is, indeed, as Munna Bhai described, a ‘jadoo ki jhappi’!
When was the last time you hugged someone? Please share it with us in the comments below!
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