There is an increasing amount of research available regarding the health benefits of hugging and positive physical touch. In short, after about 20 seconds of hugging, Oxytocin (commonly known as the “love hormone”) is released in the body. When this occurs:
- Oxytocin promotes weight loss by decreasing energy intake.
- Oxytocin promotes attachment and solidifies relationships.
- Oxytocin fosters generosity, like 80 percent more generous and the hormone seemed to affect their sense of altruism as well (ref. 2007 study in the journal Public Library of Science ONE).
- Oxytocin eases stress (ref. a study presented at a 2007 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience).
- Oxytocin reduces drug cravings (ref. 1999 article in the journal Progress in Brain Research).
- Oxytocin improves social skills, particularly it improves the ability of people with autism to interact with others and also reduced autistic individuals’ fear of others (ref. February 2013 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
- Oxytocin induces/promotes sleep when released in the brain under stress-free conditions (ref. 2003 study in the journal Regulatory Peptides).
As for hugging, putting all the research together, the benefits to one’s health and well-being is HUGe. Hugging strengthens the immune system by creating more white blood cells. The action of hugging reduces the risk of suffering from early dementia by balancing the nervous system. Hugging reduces blood pressure… and all the effects noted above. If you are looking for more evidence on the effects of positive touch and hugging, I’ll refer you to Dr. Tiffany Field (professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Psychology, and Psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Director of the Touch Research Institute). Her research is sound and results are well respected. Dr. Field calls touch “the mother of all senses,” and in her 2001 book, “Touch,” she argues that American society was already dangerously touch deprived, long before the coronavirus exacerbated it. When New York Times journalist Maham Hasan asked people asked “what specific touch they missed the most, the answer was identical for everyone I interviewed: hugs.” Social Media, mask wearing (absence of facial cues), and physical or social distancing makes it challenging to cope without hugs because we are “hard-wired” to be social. There will no doubt be challenging consequences as a result of human sensory deprivation, and the long-term effects will take some time to fully understand. When one is feeling safe and comfortable to reach out towards others with a kind and tender embrace, it’s still always wise to “ask first.”
“What Is National Hugging Day? History and Origins” Newsweek (Jan 21, 2022)
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