Since infancy, hugs play a key role in a person’s development. We have learned to use hugs as a way to communicate and share our feelings with others. We also use hugs as a way to comfort others. We hug others when we experience emotional states of distress, happiness or closeness.
Interestingly but not surprisingly, science has revealed how hugs improve our well-being both physically and mentally.
Below we present five ways in which hugs benefit our health according to several scientific studies.
1. In times of distress, hugs have the power to minimize anxiety by increasing the release of oxytocin in the brain (the ‘love’ hormone) and thereby reducing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. The release of oxytocin in the brain helps us build feelings of closeness, trust and affection toward others and therefore contribute to two people bonding with each other.
2. Hugs improve the function of our immune system. A scientific study with 400 adults showed that the act of hagging boosts our immune system and reduces the chances of getting an illness. Lack of physical contact on the other hand, appears to weaken our immune system and make one more susceptible to disease. This is more apparent in cases where someone experiences isolation from others.
3. Hugs improve heart health. Another side effect of oxytocin release is the lowering of our blood pressure and the reduction of our heart rate. A hug then appears to be a natural remedy to fight a very stressful situation. A hug can even have life-saving effects such as in cases of a heart attack or potential stroke, where blood pressure levels are dangerously high.
4. Hugs lower the levels of pain and discomfort. It has been observed that hugs have the capacity to reduce pain in cases of cancer patients or people who suffer from back pain.
5. Hugs help us fall asleep faster. Because hugs provide us with relief from stress and calm our bodies down, they also assist us in falling asleep more quickly to help us get a better quality of sleep. It is no surprise then why children tend to seek hugging a comfort object, such as, a teddy, a doll, or a soft blanket during sleep time.