Hugs, those warm, comforting gestures of affection, have a profound impact on our well-being. Beyond their ability to convey love and connection, hugging is a powerful tool that can significantly benefit both mental and physical health.
From reducing stress to promoting emotional connection and even enhancing physical health, hugging is an essential aspect of our lives.
We explore why hugging is important for our overall well-being and how it can enhance our lives in various ways.
The science behind hugging
Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, explained that hugging triggers the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone.” “It plays a crucial role in social bonding, attachment, and emotional regulation. The increase in oxytocin levels promotes feelings of trust, empathy, and attachment to the person hugging us.”
She added that hugging can activate the brain’s reward centres, particularly the ventral striatum. “This is the area of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. It reinforces the positive experience of the hug and encourages individuals to seek out social interactions and physical closeness.”
Here’s why hugging matters for your physical and mental health.
i. Pain Relief: Physical touch, like massage or even a simple hug, can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. It can help reduce the perception of pain and alleviate discomfort.
ii. Stress Reduction: Touch triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. Chronic stress is linked to various health issues, so reducing stress through touch can have long-term health benefits.
iii. Immune System Boost: Research suggests that positive physical interactions, such as hugging, can strengthen the immune system. The reduction in stress and the release of oxytocin may play a role in improving immune function.
iv. Heart Health: Physical touch, especially hugging, can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, this can contribute to better cardiovascular health.
i. Mood Improvement: Physical touch, including hugging, stimulates the release of endorphins, which can elevate mood and create feelings of happiness and well-being. It’s a natural mood enhancer.
ii. Anxiety and Depression Reduction: Hugging and physical touch can provide comfort and emotional support. This can be particularly valuable in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, as it fosters a sense of connection and security.
iii. Emotional Connection: Touch is a powerful means of non-verbal communication. It can convey emotions like love, empathy, and understanding, which are essential for building and maintaining relationships. Strong social connections are closely tied to emotional well-being.
iv. Stress Management: Regular physical touch can act as a stress management tool. It helps regulate the body’s stress response, making it easier to cope with the challenges of daily life and reducing the long-term impact of chronic stress on emotional health.
Other than hugging your friends and family, don’t forget the therapeutic power of cuddling with your furry friends. The love you share with your pets is equally meaningful.
Remember that self-hugs count too. Embrace yourself with self-compassion and self-love. It can have a soothing effect, especially during moments of self-doubt or anxiety.
So, the next time you have the opportunity, share a warm embrace with someone you care about, and feel the profound impact it can have on your life.