A hug can convey a lot about how we feel about another person. It is not only a great way to bond with one another, it makes us feel good too. Surprisingly though, hugging has several other physical health benefits as well. In fact, scientists have discovered that when we hug a loved one, the hormone oxytocin releases into the blood stream. This hormone lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety and has also been found to improve your memory. It has also been connected to feelings of love.
But, with all these benefits (and more), should we be selective about who we hug? According to research conducted at the University of Vienna, giving a polite embrace to someone we may not know well can have the opposite effect. In fact, when we receive unwanted hugs - be it from strangers, or people we know, the hormone oxytocin is not released - rather, anxiety levels rise and the stress hormone, cortisol is released.
So prior to hugging someone, just ensure that it will be reciprocated. Other than that, here are 10 reasons why we should hug our loved ones more often:
1. Hugs combat the common cold and flu
A hug a day can keep stress-related infections and the common cold at bay. This notion has been confirmed by studies conducted by Carneige Mellon University. It was found that hugging was effective in protecting people from stress-induced vulnerability to infection, such as a viral infection.
2. Hugging boosts your immune system
Aside from uplifting your spirits and making you feel good, the oxytocin hormone released while hugging also increases the presence of other hormones that fight infection. The combined effect of feeling good and healthy, in turn, helps boost your immune system.
3. Hugs help alleviate pain
While hugs have the ability to boost your immune system, the oxytocin hormone that is released also decreases pain levels. Usually, when we feel pain, our natural response is to rub and massage the affected area. In fact, it has been found that such a simple touch releases enough oxytocin to make us feel better.
4. Hugs lower blood pressure levels
Once again, the hormone oxytocin plays an important role here, as it reduces cortisol in the body, thereby lowering blood pressure levels. Furthermore, when you hug another person, a type of pressure receptor on the skin, known as a Pacinian Corpuscle, is activated and sends signals to the brain that lowers blood pressure.
5. Hugging relaxes tension in the muscles
Hugs release tension in the body by combating pain and improving blood circulation. they also promote blood flow in soft tissues, thereby relaxing tense muscles.
6. Hugging promotes brain health and memory
The oxytocin hormone is truly beneficial for our bodies. When this hormone is released through hugging, it boosts our memory power. It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to strike a balance between activeness and calmness.
7. Hugging burns calories
Though it may be hard to believe, hugging burns around 12 calories - it may not be much, but it's a fact worth noting.
8. Hugging lowers your risk of heart disease
As you may have suspected - all thanks to the oxytocin hormone! As this hormone plays such a vital role in keeping your stress levels, anxiety and blood pressure low, it also contributes to a lower risk of heart disease.
9. Hugging reduces worries of mortality
According to a study published in the journal of Psychological Science, hugging has the ability to keep fears of mortality at bay. The study also looked into hugging an inanimate object like a teddy bear - which they found, was enough to soothe an individual's existential fears.
It was also discovered that simply imagining hugging a person you love can release serotonin, dopamine and endorphine levels in the brain, triggering feelings of happiness and joy. Consequently, this will negate any worries related to mortality, as these hormones contribute to lower levels of stress.
10. Hugging elevates your mood
When your serotonin levels are low, you are more likely to experience feelings related to depression and loneliness. But hugging can increase the production of serotonin in the brain, helping to boost your mood as well as your self-esteem. So, if you are feeling blue - give someone you love a big hug!