I come from a long line of huggers, and I wear my “Free Hugs” T-shirt with pride. There’s really nothing quite like giving or receiving a hug, especially when it involves someone you adore completely. With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, and with your loved ones expecting even more gestures of affection, there’s no better time to perfect your hugging skills! This simple act packs a wallop in the good feelings—and good health—department.
If you’re a parent, think about holding your child for the first time. You completely wrapped your arms around that little person—a hug. It produces a feeling like no other. Pure love. When I find myself getting frustrated with one of my boys, if I take the time to ask him for a hug I always feel better. Every single time. It instantly calms me down by helping me release all my stressed-out feelings.
It would be ridiculous to think you need to have children to experience the power of a hug. Think about your favorite person in the world. Now think of a time when you spent time away from him or her. Surely, when you reunited a hug was an automatic part of your greeting. Right? Right.
Ya’ know what’s pretty cool about that? There are scientific reasons explaining why a hug from a loved one can make even the most aloof people feel good—whether they admit it or not.
- More oxytocin, less cortisol: We humans are wired for touch, so even a brief hug increases our oxytocin level (the cuddle/love hormone) and reduces our cortisol level (the stress hormone).
- Lower blood pressure: When we increase our love hormones and decrease our stress hormones, a wonderful thing happens. Our bodies make a shift for the better—our heart rate slows down, our blood pressure lowers. And this happens naturally, without popping any pills.
- Peace of mind: Our emotional state is affected by hormone levels too. When our bodies are flooded with oxytocin on a regular basis, we can’t help but feel more trusting and secure with ourselves. The better we feel about ourselves, the less chance there is for depression, anxiety, or loneliness to sneak into our thoughts.
If you aren’t a big hugger, it’s no big deal. You don’t need to hug a bunch of people to reap the rewards. Find just one person you enjoy hugging, or even just holding hands with, and make it a regular practice to reach out and wrap each other up in good health. Don’t live close enough to this hug-worthy person? Petting your dog or cat can have a similar affect on you. Don’t own a pet? Past experience tells me that many of the animals at your local shelter would welcome a visit from you.
Let this Valentine’s Day be a reminder to you: adding the simple practice of hugging into your daily self-health routine can have a big impact on your path to optimal health, whether you’re hugging or getting hugged. After all, you can’t do one without the other, right?!
Are you a hugger? Have you ever noticed feeling better after expressing your affection with a hug?
Photo from iStock/michaeljung