Hide this
Hugging

Story at-a-glance +

  • Hugging increases levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which is beneficial for stress levels, heart health, and more
  • A 20-second hug reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate
  • A 10-second hug a day may fight infections, boost your immune system, ease depression and lessen fatigue
  • The giver of a hug receives just as much benefit as the receiver, but some research suggests the healthiest hugs must come from someone you trust (as opposed to a stranger)
 

Fun Facts About Hugging

February 06, 2014 | 188,707 views
Share This Article Share

By Dr. Mercola

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, also known as "Dr. Love," recommends at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoy better relationships.1 Psychotherapist Virginia Satir also famously said:2

"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth."

This may very well be the "hug threshold" that allows your body to produce ample amounts of oxytocin, which is released in response to physical touch. The neuropeptide oxytocin, released by your pituitary gland, is a naturally occurring hormone in your body with incredibly powerful, health-giving properties.

It is also a key reason why the simple act of hugging is such an incredible way to not only bond with others but also boost your physical, and emotional, health.

How Hugging Makes You Healthier

Hugging increases levels of the "love hormone" oxytocin. This, in turn, may have beneficial effects on your heart health and more. One study found, for instance, that women had lower blood pressure following a brief episode of warm contact with their partner.3

A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand-holding, also reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate.4 This makes sense, since hugging is known to lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol. But research suggests there's even more to it than that. As reported by Mail Online:5

"The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centers called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve winds its way through the body and is connected to a number of organs, including the heart.

It is also connected to oxytocin receptors. One theory is that stimulation of the vagus triggers an increase in oxytocin, which in turn leads to the cascade of health benefits."

A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes:6

Lower risk of heart disease Stress reduction Fight fatigue
Boost your immune system Fight infections Ease depression

Does Cuddle Therapy Work?

There's no doubt that hugging, caressing, and cuddling feel good. As neurologist Shekar Raman, MD, said in the Huffington Post:7

"A hug, pat on the back, and even a friendly handshake are processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, which is why they can have a powerful impact on the human psyche, making us feel happiness and joy… And it doesn't matter if you're the toucher or touchee. The more you connect with others -- on even the smallest physical level -- the happier you'll be."

Yet, many people are touch-deprived. One study found that one-third of people receive no hugs on a daily basis while 75 percent said they wanted more hugs. Findings such as these, coupled with the emotional and health benefits of human touch, have led to the emergence of cuddle therapy centers, where people can pay for a lunchtime cuddle.

However, the verdict is still out on whether or not cuddles from strangers have the same impact as those from someone you know and trust. While cuddling with a spouse or partner has been shown to boost satisfaction in relationships, at least one study showed that hugs are only beneficial if trust is involved.

The lead researcher actually cautioned against worldwide "free hugs" campaigns (where strangers offer hugs to others), saying that this may be perceived as threatening and actually increase emotional burden and stress.8 However, proven benefits have been found from cuddling with a pet, which shows hugs don't have to only be between humans to be beneficial. Even cuddling with your trusted pet may offer significant benefits to your heart and overall health.

Fun Facts About Hugging

Did you know that, on average, people spend on hour a month hugging? That doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that the average hug is under 10 seconds long… that's a lot of hugs!

Happiness Weekly compiled even more fun facts about hugging that highlight just how incredible this act of touch really is. For instance, a full-body hug stimulates your nervous system while decreasing feelings of loneliness, combating fear, increasing self-esteem, defusing tension, and showing appreciation.9

And if you had any doubt about the importance of touch, consider that children who aren't hugged have delays in walking, talking, and reading. A quick hug has a near-immediate impact on health, lowering your heart rate and inducing a calming effect while also leading to a more upbeat mood!

Interestingly, hugging has just as much a benefit for the person doing the hugging as the person being hugged, revealing the reciprocal nature of touch.10 Touch is even described as a universal language that can communicate distinct emotions with startling accuracy. One study found that touch alone can reveal emotions including anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy, with accuracy rates of up to 83 percent.11

Even More Reasons to Give (or Get) a Hug Today

Hugs are one of the most succinct ways to encourage your body to release oxytocin, and the more oxytocin your pituitary gland releases, the better able you are to handle life's stressors.

Oxytocin decreases the level of stress hormones (primarily cortisol) your body manufactures and lowers your blood pressure response to anxiety-producing events. Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.

Oxytocin has also been found to reduce the cravings of drug and alcohol addiction, as well as for sweets. It even has a positive influence on inflammation and wound healing. Even beyond this, regular hugs have the added benefit of:12

  • Cultivating patience and showing appreciation
  • Activating the Solar Plexus Chakra, which stimulates your thymus gland (this may help balance your production of white blood cells)
  • Stimulating dopamine, the pleasure hormone, and serotonin, for elevated mood
  • Balancing out your nervous system for better parasympathetic balance

Do You Need a Good Hug?

Often making a concerted effort to hug the people close to you is one of the best ways to get more hugs in return. This can include your spouse, children, and other family members along with close friends. But even if you're not currently in a life situation conducive to getting daily hugs and producing enough of your own oxytocin on a regular basis, the good news is there are some alternatives you can use to help you deal in a healthy way with your emotional response to stress and anxiety.

With the already known and still-to-emerge health and quality of life benefits to be derived from the natural release of oxytocin in your body, your best course of action is to make sure you're cultivating warm, loving, intimate relationships, no matter what stage of life you're in. Additionally, if you have a pet, just a few minutes petting your dog or cat can promote the release of your body's "happiness" hormones, including oxytocin. Since touch anywhere on your body, as well as positive interactions and psychological support, are known to increase oxytocin levels, you might also consider:

  • Holding hands and kissing
  • Giving and receiving a backrub
  • Nurturing others
  • Getting a massage
  • Practicing mind-body therapies like breathing exercises and yoga

What Are GMOs?

From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.

GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

Help Support GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.

Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.

The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.

Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve

Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.

Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.


Donate Today!

What Are GMOs?

From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.

GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

Help Support GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.

Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back.  That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.

The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.

Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve

Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.

Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.


Donate Today!

Thank you! Your purchases help us support these charities and organizations.

Food Democracy Now
Mercury Free Dentistry
Fluoride Action Network
National Vaccine Information Center
Institute for Responsible Technology
Organic Consumers Association
Center for Nutrtion Advocacy
Cornucopia Institute
Vitamin D Council
GrassrootsHealth - Vitamin D*action
Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico