Talking to a mate at an Australia Day BBQ we were discussing the usual guy stuff – cricket, footy and hugs! Yes hugs! The topic came up after observing a group of guys and girls and their like for hugging each other repeatedly. Despite the fact they were drinking it reminded me of an article I read that week about rabbits. Researchers were trying to induce heart disease in rabbits by feeding them a high fat diet. One group of rabbits had significantly lower incidence of heart disease which puzzled the researchers. After going through all the variables of the experiment, the only thing the researchers were able to identify was that the scientist took the rabbits out of their cages and cuddled them while they were being fed. So it got me wondering is there any research related to humans and hugging. To my surprise there was! lets see what the science of hugging says!
Science of hugs
One of the major findings from research in hugs was that is causes a release of Oxytocin, Dopamine and Serotonin.
Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that acts as a neuromodulator in the brain. It is also known as the “love drug”, calms your nervous system and boosts positive emotions.
Hugs also stimulate our brain to release Dopamine, the pleasure hormone. The brain includes several distinct Dopamine systems, one plays a major role in reward-motivated behaviours. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. Not that I could find any research on it, but I am pretty sure you cannot overdoes on hugs!
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract, platelets and in the central nervous system. It is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.
Benefits of Hugs
- Lowers your blood pressure;
- Helps relieve pain and raises our pain threshold;
- Reduces social anxiety;
- Lowers levels of cortisol;
- Protects against inflammation and oxidative stress;
- Increase social connection and sense of belonging.
How much and how often?
Like I mentioned earlier I have not been able to find any research about overdosing on hugs. What I have read does vary from 3 – 12 hugs per day to get the most benefit for your health.
How long should our hugs last? It appears that somewhere between 3 and 20 seconds is recommended. Sometimes we all need a good long hug!
Hugs make you happier, healthier and more relaxed and improve your relationships. Hugs are similar to meditation or even laughter. They’re free, they’re quick, you can do them in public, you can hug people of both sexes, you can hug people of all races, and you can hug people of all ages So, if you’re not hugging, you’re missing out. Are you thinking of someone right now that you want or should give a hug to next time you see them? By now you should be mentally making a list of who to hug! Do it for someone else’s health and reap the benefits too :)