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Why Hugs are So Important for Your Health

by Claire
Hugs and Why They're so Important for your Health

From the very first moment we feel the cocoon-like presence of our mother’s womb, humans are intrinsically programmed to crave connectivity and touch. Needing the touch of another person is part of what makes us human and is a very real need from early infanthood. We eventually go on to become more independent as we grow into adults, but that craving for physical embrace never leaves us.

During times of happiness, trouble or when we simply need some reassurance, the longing for a hug is ever-present and nothing else comes close to settling our emotions.

Similarly, as with grounding, hugging is a transference of energies. Hugging is between two willing participants which is perhaps why it offers such a feeling of such togetherness. Sharing an embrace with someone else communicates to them that you are there for them in a positive way and is a pleasurable way to share the joyful feeling of being embraced that comes from hugging.

As two people wrap their arms around one another in a great big delicious hug, their energies blend together and they experience a feeling of well-being and togetherness that lingers long after physical contact has been broken.

hug someone you love every day

Types of Hugs

  • A HEART HUG

    Madisyn Taylor of Daily OM says, “A heart hug is when you put your left arm over someone’s shoulder and your right arm around their waist. As they do the same to you, your hearts become aligned with one another other and loving, comforting energy flows between the two of you to flood your souls with feelings of love, caring, and compassion.”

  • A BEAR HUG

    Bear hugs often involve a tight squeeze (reflecting what a bear in the wild would do if it were to grab hold of you!) and they deliver a great big dose of affection. Bear hugs are big, warm and smothering. A bear hug can be light-hearted, or it can indicate a need for extra reassurance from one of the hug participants.

  • THE LONG HOLD

    Most often a type of hug shared between lovers, the long hold is a lingering reassuring hug filled with meaning. Long held hugs say, ‘I need you’ and ‘I’m here’ without uttering a word.  Hugs which are held for a long time shows that the reciprocal hugger knows just how much you need a reassuring embrace and long hugs are filled with emotion and love.

  • ONE ARM HUG

    A one-armed hug is where someone reaches an arm around you sideways in a kind of half-hug. On first inspection it may seem that this type of hug is insincere and lacking in emotion, but far from it! The one arm hug can be a sign of protection and comfort – and it doesn’t just have to be between close friends. A one arm hug to someone in need who you may not know very well can be a very effective way of showing them you’re there for them at their time of need.

  • MAN HUG

    The man hug happens between two men and usually starts with a handshake before transitioning into a hug-like, semi-embrace that usually involves back slapping (and grinning). A man hug is a relatively recent phenomena which has broken the cold ‘no touch’ habits of men throughout history, but still the man hug only tends to happen between close friends and family.

koalas hugging in the tree

Why Hugging is Good for our Health, According to Science

In a nutshell, when we are touched our heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of the harmful stress hormone cortisol are lowered. Research shows that hugging is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.

Hug Yourself Healthy

  • Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels which in turn gives your mood a boost and increases happiness
  • Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra which in turn stimulates the thymus gland. This gland regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free
  • Hugging relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain and sooth aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues
  • Hugs balance out 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 nervous system which increases health and vitality

togetherness and hugging

Why Hugs Mean Everything

There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, which demonstrates the need for hugs perfectly:

“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” 

Back in the 1950s, a scientist by the name of Harry Harlow from the university of Wisconsin conducted an important study on baby monkeys and the importance of touch and connectivity. Harlow separated baby monkeys from their mothers a few hours after birth and mocked up two control groups of ‘mothers’, each of whom also could dispense milk. The first group had ‘mothers’ made from bare wire whilst the second group had ‘mothers’ who were made from soft terry cloth which the baby monkeys could cling to and find reassurance.

Harlow made some interesting observations which still affects parenting theories and practices today. The baby monkeys who had spent more time holding on to the terry cloth padding (simulating mother-baby cuddling) later thrived both physically and emotionally, whereas the baby monkeys who were exposed to the wire ‘mother’ with no padding were developmentally incredibly different.

This suggests that hugging and touching is far more important than previously realised- not only does the child look to his mother for basic needs such as food, safety, and warmth, but he also needs to feel love, acceptance and affection from the caregiver. By providing reassurance and security to infants, cuddling kept normal development on track.

monkeys know the importance of hugging

Over to You…

The next time you hug someone, focus all of your energy into the embrace. You will create a profound connection that infuses your feelings and sentiments into a single beautiful gesture. Hugs really do mean the world and can keep us feeling connected, reassured and healthy. Hug someone today 😊

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