Hugs may be good for your health

Feb 14, 2019


Here’s some news we can all embrace this Valentine’s Day. You know in your heart that a warm, close hug feels good to the core. But did you know that it may actually have health benefits?  

For starters, there’s evidence that a hug — such as from a partner, a loved one or a friend — may help tame daily tension, ease our worries and even help us avoid getting sick.  

What’s in a hug? 

A good hug can display intimacy, tenderness and affection. Without words, a hug says we know each other’s struggles. And it helps us connect as humans. 

But, on a physical level, why does an embrace seem to soothe our very souls?  

One answer might be feel-good hormones — like serotonin and oxytocin. Experts say hugging triggers their release and lowers stress hormone levels. What’s more, a hug may reduce our blood pressure and heartrate, making us feel more relaxed. 

Not a big hugger? Holding hands or gently touching someone (even placing a hand ever so briefly on a weary shoulder) can also provide these effects. 

A hug for happiness and health? 

We know from research that being hugged or touched seems to promote a number of positives. For example, it may help: 

Ease fears and anxiety. One study found that being touched helped people who struggle with a sense of their own mortality. For part of the study, participants received a brief touch on the shoulder. Those with low self-esteem reported less existential angst when they received a touch, compared to those who hadn’t been touched. The researchers think touch could be used with counseling to help treat low self-esteem and maybe even anxiety and depression.  

Fend off infections like the common cold. In another study, people who were stressed but being hugged on a regular basis were less likely to catch colds than those who were hugged less often. The explanation to this is fairly simple. Stress makes us vulnerable to viruses. But being hugged conveys a sense of support, which may counteract the negative effects of stress on our immune systems.  

Other research shows that a hug, a backrub or other forms of less intimate touch may provide a variety of benefits, such as pain relief, stress reduction and a mood boost after an argument. 

Kindness is catching 

Handing out hugs isn’t the only way to boost your mood. Helping others also creates feel-good vibes. Check out these simple ways to make a stranger’s day.