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How Do Hugs Make You Feel?

Reviewed on 12/3/2020

Benefits of hugs

Benefits of hugs
Hugs can change negative moods by helping the body and brain.

According to the research, a hug may make an individual feel happy by reducing feelings of loneliness and harmful physical effects of stress. Hugs can change negative moods by helping the body and brain, boosting these feel-good hormones.

  • Dopamine: It is the pleasure hormone that makes an individual feel good. 
  • Serotonin: It is the antidepressant hormone that elevates mood, controls anxiety, and reduces feelings of loneliness.
  • Oxytocin: It is the love hormone that relieves stress and boosts heart health. It also helps in losing weight, lowers blood pressure, fights diseases, increases libido, reduces stress, and gives us a feeling of comfort.
  • A 10-second hug helps the body fight infections, eases depression, and lessens tiredness.
  • A 20-second hug reduces the harmful effects of stress, relieves blood pressure, and ensures a healthy heart.
  • Increasing the hug ratio results in reduced blood pressure, decreased cortisol, improved healing, reduced cravings, and better immunity.
  • Hugging a newborn child (kangaroo mother care) increases the baby's weight and improves its overall development.

Research shows that a proper deep hug may give an individual the following benefits:

  • It builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.
  • Because hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, it helps in healing some negative feelings such as loneliness, isolation, and anger.
  • Hugs strengthen the immune system. Gentle pressure on the sternum and emotional charge stimulate the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells, which keep an individual healthy and disease-free.
  • Hugging boosts self-esteem. The physical contact during a hug not only makes us safe and loved but also boosts self-esteem. All the hugs we received from our parents, lover, and friends make us more self-confident and happier. They connect us to our ability to self-love.
  • Hugging relaxes the muscles by releasing tension in the body.
  • Hugs can take away pain and aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.
  • A hug lowers blood pressure. When you hug, touch, or sit close to someone you love, your body releases oxytocin, which scientists call the “cuddle hormone.” This hormone can help relax and lower anxiety, which in turn can effectively lower blood pressure.
  • It boosts heart health. One study found that a hug showed greater reductions in blood pressure levels and heart rate. Findings indicate that hugs can be good for heart health.
  • According to a study, touch and hugs reduced the worry of mortality. It makes us feel safe. The study revealed that hugging alleviates the existential fear of a person.
  • A hug makes us more mindful and aware of the current situation. Being present in the moment brings us happiness. Hugging is similar to meditation (which also makes us more mindful and aware).
  • An abundance of research has shown that skin-to-skin contact such as a hug between a mother and newborn yields important physical and psychological benefits for the child, including:
    • Reduced crying
    • Improved sleep
    • Sense of body ownership
    • Reduced anxiety
    • Correct production of growth hormone, leading to correct physical development
    • Increased empathy for others as they grow up

There are two main operating systems we run on a day-to-day basis (parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems). Our sympathetic nervous system gets activated when we are stressed or perceive some kind of a threat in our environment. Therefore, if we want to balance our mind and body, we must rely on our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, recovery, and digestion. Hugs activate parts of the brain that control the nerve of the parasympathetic system (vagus). When this system is operating, we are able to restore energy, repair our body, and shift into a more balanced state. Combine the working of the parasympathetic nervous system with elevated feelings of love, compassion, and gratitude, together with the oxytocin and serotonin release in your brain during a hug, and it’s no surprise that a good hug leaves us feeling happy, relaxed, and content with the world.

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References
The Surprising Health Benefits of a Simple Hug: https://www.pihhealth.org/wellness/blog/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-a-simple-hug/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/In_brief_Hugs_heartfelt_in_more_ways_than_one

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