Sometimes, all you really need is a comforting hug from someone you love. The feeling of their arms wrapped around you can melt away any anxiety or stress — or just make an already good mood even better. It turns out, this is not just in our heads. Over the years, scientists have uncovered that hugs actually are beneficial to our overall health. Aww.
Here are three amazing ways giving and receiving hugs on a regular basis can make you a happier, healthier person:
Hugs Boost Your Immunity
You might think this kind of contact could build up your immunity because you get exposed to the potential germs from whoever you’re hugging and build up an immunity to them, but that’s not the case. Just the feeling of being supported and less stressed out when you do catch a bug can help you kick it quicker.
A study from the Psychological Science journal observed 404 participants who were exposed to a virus that causes the common cold and compared the healing process in those who reported getting frequent hugs to those who didn't. Those who received the hugs on a regular basis — both before and during the illness — reported getting over the cold quicker and suffering less severe signs of the illness. Essentially, because they felt that physical reassurance of love and support, especially when dealing with an ailment, they felt less stress and were therefore able to fight off the virus and regain strength more efficiently.
Hugs Keep Your Heart Healthy
A study published in the Biological Psychology journal observed how frequent hugs between spouses resulted in higher oxytocin levels, which is known as the “love hormone.” Along with all the good feelings of affection, it helped to regulate blood pressure in premenopausal women.
When it comes to dealing with stress, an affectionate partner can also help maintain cardiovascular health under pressure. Another study compared the reactions to stress on individuals who held hands for 10 minutes, followed by a 20 second hug versus others who simply spent that time resting quietly. Researchers measured their blood pressure and found that those who were holding hands and hugging had a lower negative reaction to stressors than those who went without.
Hugs Help You Handle Conflict
No, we’re not saying you should try to solve every spat you get into with an awkward hug. Anyone who was forced to “hug it out” with a sibling after a fight knows how frustrating those embraces can be — basically the opposite of calming.
A study from PLOSone claims, “hugs buffer against deleterious changes in affect associated with experiencing interpersonal conflict.” In simpler terms, the researchers observed that people who regularly receive hugs from a loved one are less likely to be confrontational when problems arise.
The next time you get a hug from someone, remember just how much they’re helping you stay healthy! And don’t be too reluctant to offer more hugs yourself, too. Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy, once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Think about the last time you hugged someone, how long ago it was? It's probably time to grab someone you care about and give ‘em a good squeeze — you might be surprised by how much better you feel!