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Hugs For Health

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Recent studies have found that hugging on a frequent basis is correlated with a lower risk of heart disease, fighting stress and fatigue, boosting your immune system, fighting infection and reducing depression.
 
A hug or two a day may be more effective than an apple for keeping doctors at arm’s length.

Depending on culture, context and relationship, a hug can indicate familiarity, love, affection, friendship, brotherhood or sympathy, indicating support, comfort, and consolation, particularly where words are insufficient. A hug usually demonstrates affection and emotional warmth, sometimes arising from joy or happiness when reunited with someone or seeing someone absent after a long time.

Regular embraces can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress and fatigue, boost the immune system, fight infections and ease depression, according to several studies.
Just ten seconds of hugging can lower blood pressure and after this time elapses, levels of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin increase, while the amounts of stress chemicals, including cortisol, drop.

Hugging can be a powerful part of the healing process. Hugging (and laughter) is extremely effective at moderating sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.

Research shows a proper deep hug can benefit you in these 10 ways:

1. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.

2. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.

3. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

4. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells, which helps to keep you healthy and disease free.

5. Hugging boosts self esteem. From the time we're born our family's touch shows us that we're loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability for self-love.

6. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.

7. Hugs balance the nervous system. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the parasympathetic nervous system.

8. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us to how love flows both ways.

9. Hugs are so much like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment.

10. The energy exchange between two people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding. And it's synergistic, which means the whole is more than the sum of its parts: 1 + 1 = 3 or more! This synergy is more likely to result in win-win outcomes.

There is a healing power that every one of us possesses in our arms, hands, fingers. This is the power to make someone feel valued - the power to give and receive at the same time, kindness, warmth, tenderness, support, healing, security - and most of all belonging. All add up to the profoundness of love....all human qualities that humans can give - and give with a simple touch - a simple hug.

January 21 is the National Day of Hugs. For better health, let’s make 2016  the Year of Hugs.

Spencer Thornton, MD, with Ellen Troyer and the Biosyntrx staff

References:

Forsell L, Astrom J. Comprehensive Psychology August 2012. Meanings of hugging: from greeting behavior to touching implications. [full article]

Cohen S, Hanicki-Deverts D, Turner RB, Doyle WJ. Psychological SCIENCE 2015 Feb;26 (2): 135-47. Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness. [abstract]