The Benefits of Hugs and the Importance of Physical Touch
Hugs Are Beneficial For Us All
You probably don’t think about the scientific benefits of hugs while having a cuddle. You likely just throw your arms around a loved one and forget your troubles. It’s a natural way of greeting someone you like, showing somebody you care, expressing joy or sympathy, and just getting a bit closer.
Whether it’s for achieving childhood milestones, getting into romantic relationships, congratulating someone, or experiencing grief, we all need a hug sometimes. It’s a natural way of showing affection and letting someone know they matter to you.
Why are hugs so important? Are all the benefits real? Science tells us they are—and does so with a resounding yes. We’re going to take a look at all the proven good things about hugs. We will also look at why it’s important to make sure everyone involved in the hug is comfortable with it!
The Many Benefits of Hugs
The benefits of getting a hug are plentiful and have ascientific basis behind them. Here’s just five of the fantastic ways that a cuddle will do you a world of good.
A hug from someone we love makes us happy. And there is a scientific reason for that! Hugging releaseshormones that lead to happiness. The nice hormones that hugs bring with them are:
Dopamine: the hormone that makes us experience joy and pleasure. Dopamine increases our mood and is also important for getting good sleep and remembering things. Not having enough dopamine can cause muscle and digestion problems, and lead to us feeling fatigued and unmotivated.
Serotonin: a hormone that is vital for being in a good mood. Serotonin is important for managing our mental health and avoiding depression.
Oxytocin: often known as the love hormone. This is the hormone that allows us to form emotional bonds with others.
Physical Touch Helps Us Bond
With all those lovely positive hormones, you’ll be in a very pleasant mood. As well as the hormonal benefits, cuddles have plentiful benefits to your relationship, too. Physical touch, whether it is sexual or nonsexual, is a good way of strengthening bonds in relationships. Physical touch is alove language and a form of intimacy. Touch is actually the first of our senses that comes alivein the womb. From when we are babies bonding with our parents, to when we get older and form romantic relationships, hugs are a nice way of strengthening a connection. When we hug those we are close to it helps us feel comfortable and warm.
There is research that shows hugging can decrease negative feelings and help us feel safe with the other person involved in the hug. Hugs help us gain trust in each other which in turn helps communication, a vital part of any relationship.
Hugs Help Your Immune System
Hugs are not just good for us emotionally, they actually help keep us healthy too! Just like how parents are encouraged to let their babies and toddlers mingle with others to boost their immune system, it is important that as adults we get close to others to give ourselves the same immune boost.
One study found that hugging frequently can help you prevent infection. The study was based on trying to help people who are very stressed avoid illnesses. They found that when participants had regular hugs they showed fewer symptoms of illness associated with stress.
First of all, isn’t that such a wholesome study? Wouldn’t it be nice to partake in a study where you can just have free hugs? What’s more, with the results of this study showing that hugging is beneficial to your immune system, what’s not to like?
Reduce Your Stress
Not only do hugs help reduce illness in stressed people, they help reduce stress in general!
When we are stressed, our body releasesa hormone called cortisol. This hormone is for stress regulation and helps us stay on alert. We need some cortisol, but too much can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and weak bones. Hugging helps to reduce the levels of cortisol in our bodies.
Other ways of lowering your stress are:
Getting a good quality of sleep
Avoiding unhealthy relationships
A nice, comfortable hug will also relax your muscles and can actually help reduce pain becausehugs help increase circulation in soft tissue areas of the body.
Hugs Help Your Heart
Research has shown hugs help reduce blood pressure and are good for your heart health. Generally, your heart health improves with frequent hugs, with studies showing they canlower your heart rate.
Babies Really Need Physical Affection
One of the first things a newborn baby feels is usually the touch of their mother. In the early days of a baby’s life, they will need plenty of hugs from loved ones. This is an important part of ensuring your baby experiences healthy development.
First off, babies are new to the world and vulnerable. Having a parent hold them is an important way to let them know they have a family. The parents are the first people the baby meets, so it is important that they know they are welcome.
And it’s not just a way of making the baby feel safe either. Your child will experiencemany benefits from regular cuddles. Hugs will help your babysleep better and generally be less distressed. The world is a scary place for a small, young human, so plenty of hugs are important for them to grow in confidence.
On top of the benefits we’ve already talked about,hugs make kids smarter. Physical touch helps babies learn how to move comfortably and studies have shown that hugs increase a child’s neurological function. Having physical contact with another helps babies learn that there is something outside of themselves, as they can feel someone else.
How Many Hugs?
There’s no such thing as too many hugs, so keep them coming! Hugging for 20 seconds or more has been shown to release positive hormones in our bodies. We should try to have a hug a day, and there are benefits of getting inas many hugs as we can! So whether it’s your partner, a friend, or your pet, try to make sure you get regular hugs.
Although you may mean well in giving somebody a hug or a pat on the back, remember that not everybody likes to be touched. Sometimes people don’t like being touched by people they do not feel particularly close to, and even then, maybe there are times they just don’t feel like it. While you may feel like you’d love a hug from someone and feel more than comfortable with physical contact, keep in mind not everybody feels the same.
It is important to ensure that the person you are hugging is comfortable with it. This doesn’t mean you have to get a signed contract and verbal permission recorded on tape. You simply need their consent. It’s as easy as asking, “Would you like a hug?” and respecting their response. If somebody says no they don’t want a hug, then it is important to respect their wishes.
This goes for kissing and any kind of sexual contact too. No matter how badly you want to do something, it is important to respect the wishes of the other person. And if in doubt just ask if they feel comfortable. Just because you really want something does not mean you have permission to interfere with somebody else’s body or their boundaries.
If you find you don’t like being touched, it is perfectly alright to tell someone you don’t feel like a hug. After all, it is your body.
Physical Touch in Relationships
Some people have no interest in sexual relationships, and that is perfectly fine. As we talked about, consent is really important. But if you do want to have physical intimacy with someone that is perfectly natural too and nothing to be ashamed of at all.
As we’ve seen, hugs help us release a lot of pleasant hormones and make us feel good. This is generally true forskin-to-skin contact as well. Getting close physically helps boost intimacy and allows us to connect emotionally.
Make sure you talk to your partner about the types of touch they like and don’t like. Cuddling and holding hands are nice slow ways of starting things. When it comes to sex, talk with your partner about what you like and listen to what they like. This way, you can ensure physical touch brings you closer together and isn’t just a release.
Hugs and physical affection are good for us, provided we and the others involved are comfortable with them. When the person on each side of the hug is enjoying it, the hug can increase your mood by releasing hormones that make you happy, and make you feel comfortable, as well as providing other health benefits. It’s particularly important to show physical affection through hugs to newborns.
While you may enjoy a hug, it’s important to respect other people if they don’t want to be touched. Physical touch is a nice part of intimacy when both people are comfortable, and communication around it is really important.
About The Author
NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.
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