I am a natural hugger; if you know me, then you’ve probably been hugged by me, but you might not be aware of the healthy benefits of hugging that we both get as a result.
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Those of us who indulge in regular hugging are likely to feel happier as a result. Hugging results in a surge of the ‘feel good’ brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine and also the ‘love’ hormone, oxytocin. Scientists suggest this leads to an increase in our positive mood, a boost to our immune system and the release of tension and anxiety.
If you want to improve your relationship, increase the amount of hugs you share but remember that any hug counts towards your increased feelings of wellbeing. You might consider hugging friends and family more often, if you don’t already. An authentic hug is so much more meaningful than a ‘peck on the cheek’ or one of those ‘Mwah, mwah’ air kisses.
Timing is Everything
To get the full benefit of an oxytocin boost we need to make sure our hug lasts for at least 20 seconds. Since sharing this news with my partner, Iain, the frequency of our hugs has increased enormously. However, I must admit I find it a little disconcerting to hear him counting under his breath – “… and 7, one thousand, 8, one thousand, 9 one thousand ….” to ensure that he’s ‘getting his biochemical money’s worth’!
12 Hugs For Growth
Physical connection plays an important role in the creation of positive emotions, and experiencing positive emotions leads us to a state of well-being (happiness). Hugging is a great way to communicate feelings of love, gratitude, forgiveness and approval without the need of language. Psychotherapist, Virginia Satir, well known for her work in family therapy once said “we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth”.
If that sounds like a lot, there are other ways to get the benefits of touch such as having a massage, stroking a pet, holding hands, or swimming in warm water. Probably any sensory experience will have a positive effect, but hugging seems to be the most effective (and fun?).
Sitting here on my own, I’m wondering whether one can hug oneself and get double the effect? Or maybe I should go out and hug a tree!