Hugging is a simple act that is extraordinarily powerful. From adolescence to adulthood, hugs show of comfort, love, friendship and support when we need it most. This is not just an imaginary change in our emotions; according to the National Institute of Health there is scientific evidence that supports indulging in a warm embrace.
Affection, such as a hug, releases the hormone oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin has a powerful effect on our mood and mental health. It is the love hormone that allows us to bond with others. Oxytocin reduces stress, depression and irritability while allowing us greater trust in others.
Hugs increase our sense of belonging and vastly improve relationships with those we love. Like laughter, hugs give us the opportunity to bond and strengthen relationships. Expressing painful emotions is easier in the safety and comfort of hug.
Hugs are also beneficial to our physical health. Research suggests regular hugs lasting around 10 seconds boost the immune system and lower the risk of heart disease.
If we don’t have someone to give and get hugs from, there are other options. There is a reason why little kids get attached to toys, and why our dogs and cats feel like our best friends; it is a result of the bond we have built with them. Therefore, studies suggest that even hugging a teddy bear or pet has shown to be comforting, successfully reducing our fears and anxieties.
Next time you are comforted by a loving hug, take a moment to note its mental, emotional and physical effects.