Hugs are so beneficial, so we are bringing you ten more reasons why you need to hug every day.
1. Hugs Can Help to Treat Insomnia and Anxiety
Lack of sleep can create a long list of secondary health issues that can disrupt the body’s normal function, and increase the risk of serious medical problems like heart attacks. Studies have found that sleeping with weighted blankets helps insomnia and anxiety.
Weighted blankets are filled with plastic poly pellets and weigh between fifteen and thirty pounds. They work by relaxing the nervous system via extra pressure – a form of deep touch therapy. Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is felt when we touch, hold, or stroke others, or when we pet animals.
Basically, what the blanket does is to mould to the body like a warm hug. The body responds as if it is receiving physical contact, and the brain releases serotonin, causing the nervous system to relax. With the nervous system relaxed, the body is able to fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.
A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.
2. Hugging Reduces Fear of Mortality
As human beings, we all know that we are going to die some day. This can be very frightening for people with low self esteem who feel like they are not living meaningful lives.
In a series of studies on fears and self-esteem published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers demonstrated that hugs and touch significantly reduce the fear of death and mortality.
In one particular study, participants were approached as they walked through a university campus and handed a questionnaire to fill out. Some of the participants received a light, open palmed touch from the researcher as they were handed the forms, while others were not given any physical interaction.
The results showed that participants with low self esteem, who received the physical touch, reported less death anxiety on the questionnaire than those who had not been touched.
Touch also appeared to act as a buffer against social alienation. Participants with low self esteem demonstrated no noticeable decrease in social connectedness after being reminded of death, but only if they had received a light touch.
This research suggests that touch plays a beneficial role in providing comfort and reassurance to people who are depressed and dealing with thought about their mortality.
3. Hugs Can Decrease Food Cravings
Often when we eat, we are eating not just because we are hungry, but for emotional reasons as well. In fact, the brain circuit that controls eating overlaps with the brain circuit that controls interpersonal relationships.
Eating actually sends oxytocin in the dopamine rich areas of the brain, making us feel pleasure and relaxation. Oxytocin is released by physical contact and supportive interactions with other people. Release of oxytocin brings on feelings of trust and generosity. It also reduces stress and anxiety. In fact, eating releases oxytocin in dopamine rich brain areas, which helps explain why eating can be soothing and pleasurable. This explains why we’re drawn to emotional eating; it mimics the same feelings of comfort we get from close friends and family.
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Improving our relationships, therefore, can have an impact on weight loss. By increasing the quality and closeness of our relationships, we increase the amount of oxytocin in our system and that reduces food cravings.
4. Hugs Increase Bonding and Strengthen Relationships
Relationship expert Dr Pam Spurr notes that the simple act of hugging can go a long way in keeping relationships healthy and happy.
For couples, hugging helps to bridge the gap between what happens in the bedroom and what happens in day-to-day life. It maintains the intimacy that occurs when making love, and ensures that partners feel emotionally connected to each other.
Hugs also provide a form of communication separate from sex, which allows couples to feel close without draining their energy. When couples touch, they let down their guard and feel love and acceptance towards their partner. Touching and hugging is the best way to maintain a strong emotional bond and connection.
5. Hugs Improve Self Esteem
Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. Touch and smell are the two most important senses in infants, and a baby recognizes its parent by touch. From the time we are born, our family’s touch shows us that we are special and loved.
A young child’s brain needs a lot of stimulation to grow and develop. Physical touch is one of the most important stimulations that can facilitate child development.
This is demonstrated in observations of infants in eastern European orphanages that that limited physical contact. They usually suffered from impaired growth and cognitive development.
Researchers have found that when institutionalized infants received an average of twenty minutes of touch a day for ten weeks, they subsequently scored higher on developmental assessments.
This association between self-worth and touch remains embedded within our nervous system as adults. Hugs remind us of the affection we received as babies, and therefore connect us to our ability to self-love.
6. Hugging Causes Muscles to Relax
If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how relaxed it can make you feel. This is not just a mental sensation: massage causes muscles to unclench, the heart rate to slow and cortisol levels to drop. Once that happens your body is able to relax and recharge, resulting in a happier emotional state and a heightened immune system.
Oxytocin, which is released into the bloodstream while hugging, helps the body to repair muscles more quickly. It does this by enabling fat in the body to be converted into energy and used for muscle repair. Healthy levels of oxytocin lead to better energy conversion, and therefore better muscle repair and muscle growth.
7. Hugs Increase Empathy and Understanding
Oxytocin has other benefits too. When oxytocin is released into the body, it produces a feeling of empathy.
A study conducted by Jorge A. Barraza and Paul J. Zak tested the effects of oxytocin on one hundred and forty five college students from UCLA. The students were randomly divided into three groups; one group watched an emotional video and played an ultimatum game which consisted of offering to share a fixed sum of money; the second group watched a control video and played an ultimatum game; and the third group only watched an emotional video.
The results showed that watching the emotional video increased oxytocin levels by forty seven percent. Consequently the participants experienced a change in empathy levels, as demonstrated in greater generosity during the ultimatum game.
The study illustrated how oxytocin increases empathy, even between total strangers. Just by hugging someone, oxytocin is released into the brain, triggering a feeling of empathy in our brains.
8. Hugs Increase Happiness
A UCLA study of 236 people in 2011 showed that raised levels of oxytocin promote optimism and self esteem. This result has important implications, because it means that we can, in effect, influence the genes we were born with and change the way we interact within society.
For example, we may have genes that make us more susceptible to depression, but the way we feel can be influenced by external actions, such as hugging.
As we hug and release oxytocin, our ‘happiness scale’ is raised. In fact, studies estimate that fifty percent of our happiness is genetic, ten percent is affected by our environment, and forty percent is determined by how we are nurtured.
In a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, students were divided into two groups. The first group was instructed to give or receive a minimum of five hugs a day over the course of four weeks. They had to hug as many different people as possible, and record the details. The second group, the control group, was instructed to record the number of hours they read each day, for four weeks.
At the end of four weeks, the hugging group had hugged an average of forty nine times each and reported being much happier. Unsurprisingly, the reading group reported no changes.
9. Hugs Are Great for Your Sex Life
Researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga tested the correlation between post-sex affectionate behaviour (kissing, cuddling and talking) and sexual and relationship satisfaction. The two part study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, used an online survey of 335 individuals, and a twenty one day survey of 101 couples.
In the online survey, participants reported that on average they engaged in affectionate behaviour after sex for a period of approximately fifteen minutes. Couples in the second study were then asked to cuddle for longer than this period of time.
The study concluded that couples who spent extra time together felt more satisfied with their sex lives and with their relationship. This level of satisfaction remained consistently higher, even three months after the original survey, indicating that taking time to share intimacy after sex reaffirms the emotional and sexual bond between a couple and makes it stronger.
10. Hugs Teach Us to Give and Receive
Hugging is a reciprocal act; we give and we receive. In hugging we recognize that there is equal value in giving and being receptive to comfort and warmth.
Hugs show us that love flows both ways. When we hug someone we are opening ourselves up to their energy field, and building a relationship of trust.
In India, Amma, one of India’s foremost spiritual leaders, has embraced and comforted more than 34 million people. Through her hugs, Amma inspires, uplifts and transforms people. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people, Amma says that everything is effortless if there is true love. Her followers say that her hugs give them comfort, clarity and a sense of calm.
Virginia Satir, a famous psychologist, once said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and twelve hugs for growth. Now that you have the scientific proof of all the amazing benefits that hugging can provide, don’t delay – start hugging today!
Post originally appeared on Naturally Savvy.