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The Beautiful Benefits of Hugging

I’m a nurse and I am also a hugger. I truly believe it makes others feel as if they matter and that I care about them in some way. I recently came across an article about the physiological benefits of giving and getting hugs and was motivated to share the information. While a hug gives us comfort, love and affection the real physical effects are amazing.

Hugging helps balance the nervous system. Tiny little egg shaped pressure sensors called Pacnician corpuscules that live in the skin are connected to the brain via the vagus nerve. Basically this means we feel the sense of being touched, hugging causes a balance in the parasympathetic nervous system. Hugging activates it which causes an overall feeling of relaxation. When I worked in the psychiatric crisis center and encountered many homeless it made me sad to think of the last time they felt any human contact and I quickly learned that a hug helped many more than medications.

A nice long hug can help lower stress levels. Studies show that people have tremendously lower circulating cortisol levels in their blood if they are hugged daily. Cortisol is one of the fight or flight hormones that causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Hugging also increases the amount of serotonin into the brain and endorphins into the bloodstream which are both “good feeling” hormones, they improve overall mood and decrease depression. We also can see an increase in the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin in women who have healthy relationships with frequent hugging.

So how many hugs do we need? Family therapist, Virginia Satir once said,” We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.” Unfortunately we live in a touch deprived society with reduced social interaction and physical contact. Afraid of spreading germs through hugging others? Studies show people who hug have better overall immune systems. If you want to feel better about yourself, make others feel better, lower stress, heart rate and blood pressure, improve communication, and be healthier and happier make a New Year’s resolution to hug more people more often!

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