It goes without saying that humans do whatever they can to stay healthy. They exercise. They eat the way that they're supposed to. They go to the doctor to make sure that they're in tip-top shape. While most people put way more attention into their physical health, they forget that their mental health is just as, if not even more, important than their physical health. It may seem crazy, but one of the best things a person can do for themselves is engage in some intense hugging several times a day, and here are 10 reasons why that's true!
This is because massages allow the body’s muscles to unclench, cortisol levels to drop, and the heart rate to slow. Once your body is able to fully relax, your mind will become happier and your immune system will become stronger. In fact, when oxytocin is released, which happens when you hug, it’s used to help repair the muscles in the body by enabling fat to be converted in energy! So….the happier you are and the more oxytocin you release, the better your muscles and your overall health will be.
According to the journal of Psychological Science, researchers have shown that hugs can greatly reduce this fear. In one of their studies, participants on a university campus were approached and handed a questionnaire. Some of the participants were given a light open-palm touch from the researcher and some weren’t given any kind of touch at all. According to the results, those that had received the touch reported that they had less anxiety about dying than those that didn’t receive the touch. Their research shows that hugs can actually play a major role in giving comfort and reassurance to those that struggle with the fear of dying.
Hugging in relationships can help bring together the part of the relationship that occurs in the bedroom, with the part of the relationship that does all of the day-to-day “business.” Life can get pretty hectic, so hugging helps couples remain emotionally connected throughout the day. When a couple touches, they’re not only communicating with one another, but they’re letting their guard down enough to feel loved and accepted by their partner. Needless to say, hugging allows a couple to maintain a strong emotional connection no matter what’s happening around them.
It may seem hard to believe, but one of the best ways to achieve this is through physical touch. From the moment a baby is born, their two most important senses are touch and smell, and this can be seen in the infants that live in eastern European orphanages. Sadly, many of the infants in the orphanages were suffering from impaired cognitive development and growth. That was until they introduced 20 minutes of touch into their daily routines. After 10 weeks, researchers found that the babies scored higher on developmental assessments. Because of the undeniable connection between the loving touches that babies receive and their self-worth, these feelings are ingrained into adults as they get older, which allows them to be stay connected with their ability to self-love.
According to a study conducted by Jorge A. Barraza and Paul J. Zak, who tested the effects of oxytocin on 145 University of California-Los Angeles students, oxytocin can increase empathy, even in strangers. The students chosen were randomly divided into three groups: one watched an emotional video and played an ultimatum game, the second group watched a control video and played an ultimatum game, and the third group only watched an emotional video. The results showed that oxytocin levels in the participants increased by 47%, which caused the participants to show higher levels of empathy.
Over the course of four weeks, the first group was told to give or receive a minimum number of five hugs a day. The other group was told to record the number of hours they read each day for those four weeks. On average, the hugging group reported that they were much happier, while the reading group reported no changes to their mood whatsoever. This just goes to show that oxytocin plays an integral part in the amount of happiness we feel!
Fortunately, studies show that hugs can actually help with insomnia and anxiety. Sadly, a lot of people don’t have someone willing to hug them the entire time they sleep, but thanks to the help of weighted blankets, which are filled with plastic poly pellets and weigh between 15 and 30 pounds, people are able to sleep much better at night. You see, weighted blankets work by using pressure to relax the nervous system - kind of like deep touch therapy - so your brain will release serotonin, “the happy chemical.” The serotonin allows the body to relax enough to be able to fall into a deep, more restful sleep!
The two-part study, which was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, used an online survey of 335 people, and a 21-day survey of 101 couples. According to the online survey, people reported that they spent an average of 15 minutes affectionately engaged with their partner after sex. Those people were then asked to spend more time cuddling with their partner. The study shows that the couples who spent more time with each other cuddling felt more satisfied with their relationship. This just goes to show that taking time to show affection to your partner will only strengthen the bond you have to them!
Because hugging is reciprocal, meaning they’re given and received, hugs teach us that love goes both ways. The famous psychologist, Virginia Satir, once said: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Now that you understand how important hugs are to your mental health, you should stock up on them as soon as possible!
When we eat, oxytocin is sent to the dopamine-rich centers of the brain, causing us to feel relaxation and pleasure. Because eating mimics the same feelings that we get from close contact, this is the main reason why so many people are considered “emotional eaters.” But instead of picking up something to eat, try to increase the quality and closeness you have in your relationships. Not only is this much healthier for your body, but it’s better for your brain too.