When was the last time you had a hug? Not one of those fake obligatory social greeting type hugs, but a true honest-to-goodness heartfelt hug? Hopefully it wasn’t too long ago. Never underestimate the benefits of a hug. A warm embrace can make us feel better and contribute to our well-being. Hugs truly have amazing power!
Hugs and Healing
You’ve probably experienced it many times yourself. As a child when you got hurt or skinned a knee, a comforting hug from mom or dad instantly made things better. Or when faced with an emotional trauma like a relationship break-up, didn’t a hug from a friend help? And what is one of the first things we usually do when someone close to us is suffering? We offer a hug. It’s instinctual and healing.
Even when there is no one around to hug, one can gain comfort from hugging a pillow, a pet, a stuffed animal or even a tree. How often have you seen a child cuddle a favorite stuffed bear or doll? It provides them a sense of security and makes them feel good. And although most adults won’t admit it, they too probably have a favorite go to object or pet when there’s no human hug partner nearby. Hugs are therapeutic!
The Science of Hugs
A famous quote by psychotherapist Virginia Satir goes, “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 remains to be seen, but there is a great deal of scientific evidence related to the importance of hugs and physical contact.
American psychologist Harry Harlow conducted one of the most significant studies around physical intimacy and nurturing during the 1950’s. It involved rhesus monkeys and surrogate mothers. Given the choice between a mother composed of wire holding baby bottle vs. a cloth-covered mother, the monkeys spent more time with the cloth-covered surrogate. His study easily showed the importance of emotional and physical connection.
More recently, researchers at the University of North Carolina found that even a brief hug—as little as twenty seconds—from a partner can help reduce cortisol levels that contribute towards stress. In addition to lowering stress levels, hugs were also found to reduce blood pressure. Apparently a hug does your heart good in many ways!
Upping Your Hug Quotient
A few years back there was a YouTube video that went viral. It was by Juan Mann who held a sign that read “Free Hugs” in a public square. Sadly it took awhile before anyone took him up on his offer, but once things got going it became a sensation. Eventually it morphed it the Free Hugs Campaign. It just goes to show how desperately we need more hugs in our lives.
While offering hugs to strangers is not most people’s method of increasing their daily-recommended dose of hugs, there are plenty of ways to up your hug quotient.
They say charity begins at home—so does hugging! Start with your own household. Vow to hug your family members or roommates more often. The same goes for your friends. The next time you’re at a party or gathering, offer to hug people when greeting them or saying goodbye. It’s a great habit to develop. Who knows, you may end up starting “hug parties.” Take every opportunity to hug people when it’s appropriate. And don’t forget your pets and animals. They love hugs too!
Finally, just ask! Sometimes the easiest and simplest way to get more hugs is by asking. Rarely will someone refuse and it’s always a win-win! Hugs are powerful and who knows, maybe by hugging we can amazingly heal the world!