Good reasons to give more hugs (and get more)
We all love hugs, cuddles, snuggles - whatever you want to call them, there's nothing quite like the warm fuzzy feeling of being wrapped up in someone else, whether it's for a few minutes or a few hours. Hugging can enhance our moods, boost confidence levels and make us feel safe and protected. You don't have to be in a relationship to enjoy hugs - hugging your friends, family, pets or even inanimate objects such as teddy bears can all give you a feel-good mood boost. Here are a few reasons why you should give (and get) more hugs!
Hugs boost your immune system
Stress can leave you more prone to illness and at this time of year, with colds and flu everywhere, the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to catch a bug. Research shows that reducing your stress levels by having a good support network, and getting plenty of hugs, can boost your immune system and protect you from getting sick, and if you do get ill, your symptoms could be less severe (1).
They make you feel good
A warm, cosy hug isn't just comforting and lovely, it can actually release oxytocin, the same chemical released by our brains when we fall in love. Oxytocin makes you get the warm fuzzies and has been linked to social bonding (2) which can help you to feel less alone and more connected, in particular to the person you're hugging.
They lower blood pressure
After a short hug or long cuddling session in front of a movie, you're likely to feel really good mentally, and there are physical benefits to hugs to! Touch activates pacinian corpuscles, receptors on the body which respond to touch and send signals to the part of the brain responsible for controlling blood pressure (3). So hugs could actually reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke!
Hugs can improve your relationship
When you've been together for a while, it's easy to take each other for granted and stop being as affectionate. But when you're in a committed relationship, regular cuddles are essential in order to remain happy with one another - even hugging whilst sleeping can make you happier. A study by Richard WIseman from the psychology department at the University of Hertfordshire revealed that 94% of couples who touched or hugged whilst asleep were satisfied with their relationships, whilst only 68% of those who didn't have close contact whilst sleeping were happy (4).
They can alleviate fears
The journal 'Psychological Science' published research from a study on self-esteem and fears which revealed that hugs can reduce our fears. Hugs - even with a pet or a teddy - can soothe our fears and reduce our anxiety levels. Sander Koole, the study's lead researcher, wrote, "Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instil in people a sense of existential significance (5).
Hugs can reduce stress
Stress causes our cortisol level to rise, putting our bodies into a state of high-alert. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin carried out a study into the effects of hugs on reducing cortisol levels. A group of young girls were asked to give unplanned speeches to a room of strangers, which raised their cortisol levels through the roof. After the experiment, some of the girls were asked to phone their parents, whilst some received a hug from their mums. The girls who received a hug showed lower levels of cortisol one hour after the speeches than those who had a phone conversation with their families (6).
Hugs are good for your heart
Cuddles might warm your heart but now it seems that they're actually good for your heart too! Researchers at the University of North Carolina noted that study participants who didn't have physical contact with their partners had a heart rate of 10bpm, compared to the 5bpm displayed by those who hugged during the experiment (7).
Hugs can help us stay happy and healthy in old age
We need physical touch and hugs even more as we get older. Studies have revealed that feelings of loneliness as we age can increase stress levels and leave us suffering from ill-health. Hugs not only make us feel closer and more connected to that person, they also decrease our feelings of loneliness (8).
Hugging babies can make for less-stressed adults
A study of rats carried out at Emory University (9) discovered a link between physical touch and stress relief, particularly in life's early stages. Researchers concluded that their findings also applied to humans, and that the development of a baby depends on both nature and nurture. Regular physical contact and plenty of hugs for babies and toddlers could mean they'll be less stressed and happier as adults.
These are just a few reasons why getting and giving hugs more hugs is a great idea - as if you needed a reason. Hugs make us feel good, in the same way that achieving goals, completing a fitness challenge, falling in love or getting that promotion at work makes us feel good. If you're ever looking for reasons to include more hugs in your life; this list is your go-to!
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