The physical and mental benefits of hugging

The physical and mental benefits of hugging

Hugging is a pleasant behavior that we experience from the first moments of birth. Humans experience feelings such as security, empathy, friendship, and love by hugging each other. A mother’s hug is one of the first needs of a baby that must meet. We cannot deny the incredible power of hugs. Do you know that hugging is good for human health? In this article, I want to introduce you to the psychological and biological benefits of hugging.

The benefits of hugging

How do you feel when you hug others? The feeling you experience results from your relationship with others or the situation in which this behavior occurred. In other words, the person and the situation play a role in hugging. Everyone’s hug can have a different feeling and effect. For example, hugging a close friend gives us a different feel than a mother’s hug.

On the other hand, situations are also critical. Football players hug each other as a sign of happiness after scoring a goal against the opposing team in a football game. But this feeling comes with hugging a friend whose father is dead. In this case, we want to provide a sense of empathy and relief to our friend. So situations and people have an essential role in the effect of hugging. Now let’s see what the scientific benefits of hugging are.

1. Regulation of hormones

When we hug others, we feel good. This pleasant feeling is not only psychological but also includes physical aspects. Hugging others releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone. Oxytocin hormone is naturally present in the body and is naturally produced in the hypothalamus and then secreted in the posterior pituitary gland. This hormone plays an essential role in romantic feelings, sexual needs, childbirth, and the postpartum stages of the baby. This hormone influences emotions between mother and baby. Feelings of attachment, love, and trust are the social consequences of this hormone, which occurs due to its release in the pleasure centers of the brain.[1]

Hugging also lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is secreted from the adrenal glands and plays an essential role in regulating blood pressure, relaxation, and the functioning of the body’s immune system. Also, scientific evidence has shown that serotonin levels increase when hugging others, creating a feeling of happiness and relaxation.

2. Reducing stress, anxiety, and mental pressure

Each of us faces various challenges in our daily life. We may have a difficult day at work. Or worry about an unfortunate event that may happen in the future. Such cases can bring us a lot of stress, anxiety, and mental pressure. Hugging has been one of the valuable solutions that humans have used for thousands of years to overcome unfortunate situations. Hugging brings a feeling of support, security, and comfort to humans. The research conducted in this case has shown that physical touch reduces mental pressure and distress. In one such study conducted on 20 couples, researchers gave the men unpleasant electronic shocks while the women held their partners’ arms. The researchers found that under these conditions, parts of the women’s brain related to stress show less activity.[2] Brain reactions and the release of hormones such as oxytocin and the reduction of the cortisol release hormone are influential factors in reducing stress, which is made possible by hugging.

3. Improve sleep

We need enough sleep to perform daily activities and maintain physical and mental health. One of the problems that psychologists pay attention to as a sign of the mental disorder is a sleep disorder. So we should take the issue of comfortable sleep seriously. I suggest you give up sleeping pills because of their side effects and ignore counting sheep because research findings have shown that cuddling can help improve sleep. But how? Again, I must mention the release of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone does not directly affect sleep but enhances sleep by reducing anxiety. So if you enjoy a safe hug before going to sleep, you are expected to sleep more quickly and have fewer nightmares.

4. Strengthening the immune system

The probability of disease will decrease by strengthening the body’s immune system. Don’t be surprised because I tell you the reason that hugging significantly boosts your immune system. This simple hug can reduce inflammation.[3] Sheldon Cohen and his colleagues in the psychology department of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh conducted a study that showed; Those who hug each other more get sick less and recover faster when they are sick.[4] So if you want to protect your body from viruses like cold or flu, hug your partner; It is especially beneficial for those who suffer from mental distress during illness.

5. Relief of physical pains

Hugging can act as a pain reliever or sedative in your body. Scientific research was conducted on cancer patients and proved this. Researchers believe that the release of oxytocin helps block pain signals. This experiment found that those who received hugs and massages needed to use painkillers less than other patients.[5]

6. Heart health and blood pressure regulation

As you know, blood pressure rises due to physical diseases and mental stress. So far, we have learned that hugs and mental peace can increase the body’s immunity against disease. Hugging also helps regulate blood pressure due to lowering the cortisol level[6] and brings cardiovascular health. Another study at the University of North Carolina also proved this. In this experiment, 59 women participated in a friendly conversation about their partner, and at the end of the session, some of them ended the session by hugging their partner. The findings of this experiment showed that these women had lower blood pressure than the other group during the stressful parts of the investigation.[7] [8]

7. Reducing depression and improving mood

Desire to be alone and away from others are clear signs of depression. The more people distance themselves from their society and friends, the more severe their depression increases. Enjoying the hugs of those we love can be effective in reducing depression and improving our mood. A nursing home in New York City implemented a program called “Hug You.” This program proved that older people felt less depressed and could sleep more quickly after starting the program.

8. Increases happiness

Hugging the ones we love makes us feel happy. Psychological and biological factors play a role in this feeling. As you know, happiness is an emotional state described by happiness, satisfaction, and being good. We feel this way when we hug those we love.

9. Improving interpersonal and romantic relationships

Couples who hug each other more have better interpersonal relationships and quarrel less. This can happen for biological reasons (secretion of oxytocin and other effective hormones) or psychological reasons (feeling of emotional support, security, empathy). Improving interpersonal relationships doesn’t just happen between couples. When you hug your friends, you share your positive feelings and deepen friendships.

10. Better team performance and increased coordination

When a football team succeeds in scoring a goal against its opponent, the players hug each other as a sign of happiness. But this feeling, in addition to conveying a shared sense of joy, also improves team performance. Researchers looked at NBA basketball players in 2008-09 and found that player trust and cooperation were better on teams with higher touch rates than on other groups.[9]

11. It helps children’s mental health

Some parents believe that hugging children makes them huggable and spoiled, but this is not the case; based on the psychoanalytical approach, hugging is one of the first needs of a baby, and satisfying this need brings pleasure. If you avoid hugging your baby or child, you will pamper him more. Children who are kept away from the hugs and love of their parents will experience low self-esteem, mistrust, and suspicion in adulthood more than others. So we see that hugging from the very beginning of life is valuable and keeps its value until death.

What happens if we don’t hug others?

I told you the physical and psychological benefits of hugging. If we do not embrace others, we are denied these benefits. Avoiding hugging others can also have disadvantages, including:

  • depression
  • Loneliness
  • mental pressure
  • Decreased sleep quality
  • Lack of empathy
  • Lack of security
  • Weakness in interpersonal relationships
  • Personality disorders
  • Physical pains

Hugging a mobile phone?!

Suppose you are away from the person you love for a long time; how can you maintain and strengthen the pleasant feelings of being with him? Hugging his photo may seem strange, but it was one of the oldest methods before the internet. Thanks to the internet, today you can video chat with your friends worldwide, but this was not possible in the past. In exciting research, people were asked to hug a humanoid doll with a phone inside and talk to their partner using this device. In this study, it was proved that this behavior increases the level of the love hormone. So, if you are far from your love, I suggest you sometimes open his picture on your phone and hug it after seeing it!

Hugging animals is also effective

Pets feel deeply attached to humans. Hugging pets not only makes you feel positive but also makes animals happy. So, take physical touch seriously if you want a more intimate relationship with your cat or dog.

How much should we hug others?

The truth is that there is no specific amount of hugging or hugging others, it is a psychological need and feeling that exists in everyone, but research has shown that the more we embrace others, the better we will feel. Virginia Satir, a well-known American psychotherapist, and the author, has an interesting opinion on this matter.

We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.

Virginia Satir

National Hugging Day

January 21 is known as National Hug Day. From the standpoint of psychology, hugging and hugging is an essential process. If you are an adult, when you hear the word hug, you think of lovers hugging each other. Let’s go back further. The first hug that every person experiences are a mother’s hug. The baby interacts with others for the first time through hugging, which is the beginning of her human relationships.

A word from Mr. Psychologist

In this article, I explained several scientific and proven reasons for the importance of hugging. But does love and affection need a reason? No. So if you haven’t hugged someone today, hurry up. Your father, mother, wife, and children need your hugs. Do it not only for them but also for yourself.

People also ask (FAQ)

What are the benefits of hugging?

Hugging regulates hormones such as oxytocin (the love hormone), reduces physical pain, reduces depression, and strengthens the body’s immunity. In this article, you can read more than ten benefits of hugging with scientific proof.

Should we hug children?

Yes, hugging children is an essential issue for development and mental health.

How many times should we hug others?

There is no set amount for this; it depends on how much you care about creating a positive emotional feeling in yourself.

Does hugging reduce depression?

Scientific findings have shown that hugging reduces depression and improves people’s moods.

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