The Importance of Hugs

This seems like such a contradictory thing at the moment with COVID-19 telling us to social distance, but more than ever I think our families need this touch. It is part of what we need as humans to thrive!!

The average length of a hug between two people is 3 seconds. But researchers have discovered something fantastic. When a hug lasts 20 seconds, there is a therapeutic effect on the body and mind. The reason is that a sincere embrace produces a hormone called “oxytocin”, also known as the love hormone. This substance has many benefits in our physical and mental health, helps us relax, feel safe and calms our fears and anxiety. This wonderful tranquilliser is offered free of charge every time we have a person in our arms, hold a baby or child, cherish a dog or cat, dance with our partner or simply hold the shoulders of a friend.

A famous quote by psychotherapist Virginia Satir “we need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Whether those exact numbers have been scientifically proven is unknown, but there is a great deal of scientific evidence related to the importance of hugs and physical contact.

Here are some reasons why we should hug:

Stimulates Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brains emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. It is the hormone produced when we make love and released during childbirth. When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Cultivates patience

Connections are fostered when people take the time to appreciate and acknowledge one another. A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgment of another person.

Prevents Disease

Affection also has a direct response on the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. Studies into touch have found significant benefits, such as faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune diseases symptoms and improved immune systems in people with cancer.

Stimulates thymus gland

Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum during a hug stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy and disease free.

Communication without saying a word

Almost 70 percent of communication is nonverbal. Hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal.

Self-Esteem

Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. A baby recognizes its parents initially by touch. From the time we are born our families touch shows us that we are loved and special. These associations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The hugs we received from our parents while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level.

Stimulates Dopamine & Serotonin

Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it is also responsible for motivation. Hugs stimulate the brain to release dopamine.

Hugging also releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood system which is also related to pleasure, elevated mood and creating happiness.

Parasympathetic Balance

Hugs balance the nervous system. The skin contains pressure centres that can sense touch and connect with the brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve represents the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood, immune response, digestion and heart rate.