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We all missed the connection – especially hugs. Today, try to hug someone a little longer than you normally would. When you’re ready to end the hug, remember to stay close for just five seconds. Stay present and tune into all of your senses as you enjoy the hug.
During the pandemic, we were careful about hugging friends, strangers, and even family members who did not live with us. But now that more people are being vaccinated, you can start hugging again.
There is a surprisingly large body of research into the health benefits of hugs. The general conclusion is that hugs are good for you. Not only do hugs help you cope with the stresses of daily living better, but they are also linked to positive physical changes in your body.
One study looked at hugging among Olympic athletes and found that the average hug lasted about three seconds. Other research has shown that women who receive hugs from their partner have lower levels of cortisol in stressful situations. It has also been shown that more frequent partner hugs lower blood pressure and increase oxytocin, a calming hormone that can lower stress and strengthen feelings of connection.
One truly remarkable study linked hugging to a stronger immune system. The researchers asked 404 adults every day for two weeks about moments of conflict in their time and whether they had hugged someone. After the survey, all of the study participants agreed that the researchers should infect them with a cold virus by using nasal drops that contained a type of rhinovirus or mild influenza virus. Participants were then quarantined for five or six days and later gave blood samples so researchers could assess their immune responses.
When exposed to the cold virus, you cannot be sure that you will get sick. Often your immune system can fight off the germs. However, other research has shown that people who have a lot of stress and conflict in their life are less immune and more likely to get sick.
In this study, researchers found that people who had conflicts in their day and had fewer hugs were more likely to get sick. Having more hugs was protective.
“We found that hugging acts as a stress buffer,” said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon who led the research. “People who were hugged a lot were protected from the negative effects of multiple conflicts. Lesser hugs increased the risk of illness in people with severe conflicts. “
The study doesn’t mean that hugging a lot always strengthens your immune system. It may be that all of the hugs served as an indicator of social support. Several studies show that high levels of social support are good for your health.
In a related 2018 study, researchers used the same dataset to see how hugging affected people’s moods. Among the study participants, conflicts in their time made moods worse, and the bad feelings lingered until the next day. But on days when people experienced both conflict and hugs, they felt better. Michael Murphy, a research fellow, professor of psychology at Texas Tech University who led the 2018 hug research, said he was in the middle of a new 400-person study that will further explore the relationship between hugs and conflict resolution, including As to whether it is, it is better if the hug comes from the person you are fighting with – or if one hug is enough.
“Hugs help us feel more supported and connected, and can calm feelings of anxiety and improve our ability to deal with difficult experiences,” said Dr. Murphy. “Supportive touch seems like a simple yet powerful and powerful reminder that we have people in our lives who love and care for us.”