Over the centuries, various forms of interpersonal touch have become less common, influenced by changes in cultural values and new technology.
Nowadays, with twenty four hour access to mobiles, texting and email, many people spend more time interacting with their technology than they do with each other. This lack of touch has many effects on different aspects of our lives, and can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation and insecurity.
So why is touch so important to us? We typically think of touch as a pleasant, but not very important part of life. But touch plays an integral role in our daily experiences. It influences what we buy, what we eat, who we love, and even how we heal. We use our sense of touch to gather information about our environment and to establish social bonds with each other.
Multiple studies have concluded that touch, especially hugging, provides numerous health benefits. If you’re looking for a great way to boost your immune system, reduce your stress, improve your sleep and even help cure depression, you need to consider hugging. Hugs have no side effects and require no prescription. Even better, they’re free and can be given and received anywhere, at any time.
Here are 20 great reasons why you should hug and allow yourself to be hugged every single day.
1. Hugging Helps to Fight Stress Induced Illness
It’s a well known fact that stress can weaken the immune system, leading to colds and other illnesses. As the body tries to cope with stressful situations, it responds by becoming physically sick.
Scientists have been investigating the link between physical touch and a healthy immune system. In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of receiving hugs on the immune system. Participants were tested on their susceptibility to the common cold, after being exposed to the virus.
It turns out that the people who received more hugs, and greater social support, were less likely to get sick. In fact, researchers calculated that the stress-buffering effects of hugging explained thirty two percent of that beneficial effect. And amongst those participants that did get a cold, those that received hugs reported fewer symptoms.(1)
The researchers concluded that hugs are a way of providing support, and being hugged more frequently could be an effective means of reducing stress and stress related illness.(2)
Bottom line: Hugs help us fight stress and keep us healthier.
2. Hugging Boosts Our Immune System
Hugs strengthen the immune system. When you hug someone you are placing some gentle pressure on their sternum. This activates the Solar Plexus Chakra and stimulates the thymus gland. The thymus gland regulates and balances the body’s supply of white blood cells, keeping you healthy.(3)
The link between touch and a healthy immune system is also documented in a
2010 study published in the journal Developmental Review. The study examined the effects of massage therapy, and concluded that participants showed a noticeable drop in heart rate and blood pressure. They also exhibited a boost in their immune systems, increasing their white blood cell count and decreasing their levels of cortisol.(4)
Bottom line: Hugs boost the body’s immune system and keep us healthy.
3. Hugging Reduces Stress
When we are stressed our nerve endings send information to the body to release the hormone cortisol. This hormone slows down the body’s healing process. Cortisol stimulates the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, which, if not controlled, creates a number of health problems.
Studies have shown that hugging can affect cortisol levels in the body by causing the release of a hormone, oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone’. Oxytocin is also referred to as the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproduction.(5)
When we receive a hug, the body releases oxytocin, making us feel calmer and more relaxed, and stress levels are reduced. The oxytocin acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and helping women endure the pain of childbirth. Matt Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University describes oxytocin as promoting feelings of devotion, trust and bonding, and says it lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.(6)
Bottom line: Hugs reduce stress by releasing oxytocin which relieves anxiety and helps us to bond.