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The Power of Hugs

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

When was the last time you really hugged someone? I mean a good, long lasting hug of over 20 seconds? According to scientists, hugging goes beyond the warm feeling you get when holding someone in your arms. Giving another person a hug helps reduce the stress level and both people slowly start to feel calmer, more relaxed and comforted. This simple action can and does boost people’s overall mental, physical and emotional well-being.

The act of hugging releases oxytocin, the “love hormone”. Recent studies have revealed the amazing effects oxytocin has on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. In one such study, a group of romantic partners held hands for 10 minutes followed by 20 seconds hugging each other, while the control group simply sat in silence for that same time. People in the first group showed greater reductions in blood pressure levels and heart rate than the control group. Another interesting study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh: in that study, participants were exposed to a virus and monitored to evaluate signs of illness. The participants who had strong social support and/or had physically embraced each other were less likely to get sick then their “less social” counterparts.

We’ve all known for a long time that humans are, first and foremost, social beings. Our modern social conventions often push people not to touch others who aren’t directly related to them, which leads to a significant percentage of us being touch deprived. Add to this mix the fears induced by COVID and the isolation we all went through over the past couple of years and you have a perfect storm of “social distancing”.

My advice is simple and straightforward: if you want to feel better about yourself, reduce your stress, improve communication, and become happier and healthier, start hugging people more. I don’t mean for you to go crazy and hug everyone you see on the street… start with your own bubble of friends and family. And, if you happen to avoid touch from others at all cost, then start hugging yourself, or your pet. While not the same, doing also releases oxytocin in your body and gives you some of the same benefits of hugging another person.

Now, if you still feel stuck, here are some ideas to get started:

Start the day off by hugging a loved one before you leave the house

Say goodbye to a loved one with a hug

Greet someone you care for with a hug. And tell them you are happy to see them!

Watch a family movie together and snuggle and hug under a blanket

Hug your family when saying goodnight

Last, how much is enough? According to Dr. Virginia Satir, the “Mother of the Family Therapy”, people need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.

I hope you grow a lot over the next several months!

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