An American family therapist, Virginia Satir claimed that we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth. Cuddling seems to be a universal way of showing one’s excitement, love, happiness, and even sadness. Turns out, not only should we thank hugs for bringing us that warm feeling when holding someone in our arms, but for a bunch of benefits related to our physical and psychological health as well.
We at Bright Side love hugs, so we looked through medical studies to find out how our bodies can benefit from cuddling. Here’s what we’ve found.
1. Hugs contribute to a better immune system.
Hugs are known to be a good remedy to fight stress. However, that’s not the only physical benefit cuddling brings us. A study held at Carnegie Mellon University together with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed that supporting other people with cuddling decreases their chances of getting sick. The experiment was held among 404 adults that were exposed to a virus causing the common cold. The participants were split into 2 groups: the first group of adults was given greater support and cuddles while the rest were left without them. The result showed that cuddling had an attenuating effect on those who were exposed to regular hugs; moreover, those who still got sick had less severe signs of the illness.
2. Hugs improve your nervous system.
Cuddling stimulates the nervous system by decreasing the feeling of loneliness, fighting inner fears, and helping to increase self-confidence. Moreover, supporting other people through touch helps them feel your appreciation and support, thus affecting one’s overall body health positively.
3. Hugs promote better blood pressure.
Another study held by the University of North Carolina has proven that cuddles are good for one’s heart health. About 200 people were split into 2 groups:
- Prior to stress, the first group was watching a romantic video for 10 minutes and holding each other’s hands and giving each other 20-second hugs afterward.
- The second group didn’t have any touching contact but rested for 10 minutes and then 20 seconds before getting exposed to stress.
The results showed that the first group had lower blood pressure as well as a more stable heart rate, which means people getting regular hugs and support are more stress-resistant, benefiting their cardiovascular health.
4. Hugs make you feel happier.
Oxytocin is the very hormone that is responsible for making you feel happy and connected to others. Oftentimes, it’s called the “cuddle hormone” because its levels increase when we cuddle and touch others. This hormone has a strong effect on women, especially those who get hugs on a regular basis.
5. Hugs reduce pain.
A study held by New York University showed that some forms of touch can help reduce pain. In the experiment, the so-called “therapeutic touch” helped people with fibromyalgia syndrome to feel less pain. The participants also claimed that their life quality had improved within 6 sessions of touching treatment. Since hugging is one of the forms of touching, it can contribute to pain reduction as well.
6. Hugs relieve feelings of tiredness.
In a study called “Meanings of Hugging: From Greeting Behavior to Touching Implications”, Lena Forsell and Jan Åström identified several great benefits a brief 10-second hug gives us. Among many others, they outlined that hugs help fight the feeling of tiredness as well as contribute to one’s psychological well-being.
7. Hugs reduce social anxiety.
Thanks to oxytocin, as we’ve already mentioned, cuddles help fight feelings of social anxiety. Try hugging a person you know when you arrive at a new party and you’ll notice how confident, easy-going, and sociable you’ll become. This is all because oxytocin inspires us to think positively and have a more positive outlook on the world.
While some people might keep hugging 24/7, others are happy with just 5 minutes of hugs every day. Which group are you in?
Illustrated by Polina Koshel for Bright Side