What is the value of hugging? Oh yes, it feels nice and likely makes the other person feel nice, too, but are there real tangible benefits to hugging? Or, is that all there is.
Turns out that there are real measurable benefits from hugging. Scientists have isolated a hormone, a healthy neuropeptide – oxytocin – that is released into the blood stream when you hold a friend close. As a result your blood pressure goes down as well as stress and anxiety.
The skin is the largest organ of the body and as such is loaded with nerve sensors of light touch, heavy touch, p ressure, heat, cold, pain, etc. Just the act of being touched increases production of a specific hormone within the brain, Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) which activates greater nervous system and nerve net development. That is just from touch. Hugging is the next level up.
Research from the University of Vienna points out that you need to be selective about who you are hugging. A polite squeeze to someone socially that you aren’t close to can have the opposite effect.
Partners in functional relationships have been found to have increased oxytocin levels. The hormone promotes bonding, social behavior and closeness between family members and couples.
Dr. Kathleen C. Light, a professor at the University of North Carolina Department of Psychiatry, studies oxytocin in married couples and those permanently living together. She has found an increase in the hormone over time in close couples.
The National Institute of Health’s News in Health publication reported that “Oxytocin makes us feel good when we’re close to family and other loved ones, including pets. It does this by acting through what scientists call the dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a crucial part in how we perceive pleasure….
“Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal. It also seems to play an important role in our relationships. It’s been linked, for example, to how much we trust others.”
Barbara Frederickson points out in her book Positivity “Although any single hug, or moment of positivity, is unlikely to change your life, the slow and steady accumulation of hugs – or positivity – makes a huge difference. So, find a way to increase your daily dose of genuine, heart-to-heart, hang-on-tight hugs. You will not only give and receive good feelings, but over time, you’ll give and receive good health.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.