Give me a Hug! Will Ya?
One of the best ways to express affection towards your loved ones is hugging them. In absence of timely and correct words, the amiability of a hug conveys the emotions unerringly. Hugging can be envisioned as a handshake extended by the heart. Aptly embracing someone generates blissful vibes for both people involved and it instigates the brain to unleash happy hormones benefiting in many ways.
During the coronavirus pandemic, what topped the list of things many people missed most, was being able to hug their loved ones and it appeared like hugs had become an extinct, obsolete, ancient thing. Lack of human touch during isolations truly tested people’s patience and made quarantine more challenging. Interestingly, we did not truly comprehend much the importance of human touch for our overall well being, until we were robbed of our means and possibilities to hug our loved ones due to force majeure situations. Desiring human touch or yearning connectedness is as much a normal human need as a proper nutrition and findings support that hugs don’t just alleviate one’s mood, they are so much more than that. Various researches have documented the positive effects of human touch, hugging, cuddling and they accept that hugging is a pivotal part of human evolution and can essentially prove beneficial to one’s healthy and happy state of being. Some studies show that if a hug lasts for 20 or more seconds, it entails a therapeutic effect on the body and mind. So, have you hugged today? If not, read about these proven benefits of hugging and some reasons for outstretching to someone to seek/give a warm envelop and then go get a hug!
STIMULATES THE HAPPY HORMONES : OXYTOCIN, DOPAMINE AND SEROTONIN
When we hug someone, a neurotransmitter called Oxytocin that works on the limbic system- the brain’s emotional hub, is released by our pituitary gland that alleviates contentment, reduces stress and anxiety, lowers the heart rates and decreases the levels of cortisol hormone ( cortisol is blameworthy for stress, high blood pressure, and heart diseases). Hugs also vivify brains to disseminate dopamine, the pleasure and the feel good hormone, thereby making a person feel more joyous. All the more, hugging for a prolonged period also shoots up one’s serotonin levels, uprising the mood and generating exhilaration and bliss.
Our skin consists of a web of tiny pressure centers namely Pacinian corpuscles which are in contact with the brain through vagus nerve and are capable of touch perception. Hugs recompense the nervous system when the change in skin conductance occurs through the galvanic skin response of people exchanging embrace. A positive impact on dampness and electricity in the skin indicates an enhanced, balanced and healed parasympathetic state.
The tender compression on the sternum and the emotional lunge created by a hug actuates the heart chakra, further stimulating the thymus gland which runs and manages the body’s production of white blood cells, thereby strengthening the immune system. Also the oxytocin released by hugging enhances the working of the T-regulatory cells and facilitates the fortification of the immune system which keeps you healthy and disease free.
A research from psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) denoted that hugging can vitalize the levels of natural killer cells, lymphocytes, immunoglobulins, and other immune-enhancing cells. Endearment and warmth directly support the falling of stress levels thereby preventing several illnesses, lightening pain, lowering autoimmune disease symptoms, curtailing glucose levels in children with diabetes, and ameliorating immune system in people with cancer. Timely, regular amity and attentiveness like hugging or warm human contact has proven to be beneficial for heart patients through maintaining optimum blood pressure levels, slowing down heartbeat, calming brain impulses, creating feelings of inner safety and trust and lowering the cortisol secretion in response to the stressful situations.
A warm reassuring embrace from a sympathetic, receptive, compassionate person in an utterly stressful, draining and pressing situation aids one in distress to calm down immediately. Research noted that a warm hug in such a circumstance instantly reduces the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in our bodies, extends healing energies, succour redressing the challenge calmly, releases tension and boosts sending more calming indications to the brain to handle the stress efficiently.
And who wants to grow old all that easily? None, right! Most people are always looking for those miraculous anti-aging products through the shelves while shopping for personal upkeep that can keep them looking younger than the previous year. Again the release of oxytocin and serotonin through a hug as discussed earlier, has more benefits than obviously seen and comes here as a rescuer. Hugging can extend some anti-aging rewards through the magical hormones mentioned above by stimulating better sleep, aiding happier moods, alleviating less stressful lifestyles, promoting healthier choices, ultimately leading to decreased signs of aging. So, what’s stopping you now from getting and giving a wee little more of those warm wraps around your beings.
It is believed that the physiological transposes that take place due to the embrace amongst two people are in the form of an energy exchange of electrons. The release of oxytocin (the love hormone) while hugging initiates and strengthens the bond with others and nurtures affection and/or intimacy between people. Another study conducted on fears and self-esteem tested the correlation between human touch and truncating the fear of mortality, and it noted that participants showed comparatively less fear and anxiety about death when held in warm embrace, being tenderly touched or holding affectionately to an inanimate thing like a favourite stuff toy etc.
It is estimated that on an average about 70 percent of the communication is nonverbal, which means the power of the non verbal communication cannot be ignored or underemphasized. The exegesis of body communication can be understood through even a single gesticulation and people can efficiently channel a lot of particulars just through physical touch itself, especially by an amicable touch like hugging. The care, concern, admiration and safety can be felt through the safe envelop and it can further be passed on to others through the same non verbal assuring mode of human contact in embrace. Interestingly enough, a study established that even strangers could express emotions like anger, disgust, happiness, fear, sadness, gratitude, appreciation, warmth, concern and sympathy only through an appropriate touch in itself.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh offers hugging meditation to acquire more awareness, practising living with togetherness and being more mindful of the present moment. It is well known that being in the present moment aids the happiness quotient and hugging simply amplifies the experience through the release of more oxytocin. In this fast paced, rat race busy world of hustle-bustle, everyone is endlessly rushing to the next chore. And true bonds develop when people slow down, take out time to notice, acknowledge and appreciate those around them. By extending and receiving genuine hugs to and from others throughout the day, we not only benefit our own wellbeing but also cultivate a reassuring environment for others, and develop patience within ourselves.
IMPROVES SELF-ESTEEM & PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING
Hugging augments self-esteem in everyone irrespective of their age and stage. A baby perceives its parents and other family members initially by touch which assures that he/she is loved and protected. The interconnection of self-worth from our childhood years remains glued in our nervous system, imprinted at a cellular level even when we grow into adults and hugs remind us of that at a somatic level. Hence hugging reinforces and reminds us of our ability to love ourselves. Regular hugging also reduces negative emotions, instigates towards a positive state of being and boosts healthy psychological well-being of an individual over time.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has surely altered the way of exchanging affection with our loved ones and it’s important that we continue to remain ourselves and keep others safe, it’s also equally imperative for our mental health to stay in touch with those whom we love. Hence while adapting to safety measures and with bringing in some creativity, let’s keep giving and getting our healthy doses of warm embraces and loving hugs out there. And those who do not prefer the wraps of others around themselves can always try a self hug as that too has shown to have beneficial results.
LAST BUT NOT THE LEAST
Besides and beyond the immense benefits of hugging, there are numerous perks and merits of kissing too. So let’s discuss that in detail next time! Happy Hugging Folks!