Believe or not, there is a simple health remedy that boosts the immune system, cures depression, reduces stress and induces sleep. It is all natural, has no unpleasant side effects and doesn’t wear out. It doesn’t require batteries, yet it invigorates and rejuvenates, and requires low energy on the part of the giver.
It’s the hug.
Why Hugging Works
Hugging works because it releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts as a hormone and is what generates a sense of trust and morality. The body releases oxytocin when we feel safe and connected.
Dr. Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate University says that the “human brain naturally produces oxytocin during breast-feeding, orgasm, hugs, snuggling, holding hands, partner dance, massage, bodywork, and prayer.” (1)
Oxytocin also encourages generosity, compassion, and forgiveness.
The Effects of Hugging on Stress and Health
New research from the University of California suggests that oxytocin makes men more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. (3)
Psychologist Dr. Jan Astrom led a study which found that “[r]egular embraces can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress and fatigue, boost the immune system, fight infections and ease depression ... Just ten seconds of hugging can lower blood pressure and after this time elapses, levels of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin increase, while the amounts of stress chemicals, including cortisol, drop.” (2)
The results of the study were published in the journal Comprehensive Psychology.
As hugging reduces stress, it also reduces the risk for many diseases. Hugging will strengthen the immune system. It stimulates the thymus gland against the sternum. This controls the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy and free of disease.
Hugs also stimulate the brain’s production of dopamine which makes people feel good, and endorphins and serotonin which not only cause pleasure but also reduce pain, sadness, risk of heart problems, excess weight, and prolongs life. (3)
The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that touch resulted in “faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.” (3)
Hugs for Kids
Zak recommends at least eight hugs a day. Psychotherapist Virginia Satir recommends four hugs a day for survival, eight a day for maintenance, and 12 a day for growth.
In light of all this, how many hugs do your kids get every day?
Hugs not only do all of the above, but can also be used to calm temper tantrums. Hugging gets kids involved and engages them in an activity that will not only distract them from their own feelings, but also makes them — and someone else — feel better.
“Most of the time adults can help children stop misbehaving when they stop dealing with the ‘misbehavior’ and deal with the underlying cause. Children DO better when the FEEL better. Encouragement is the key ... [A] misbehaving child is a discouraged child. Perhaps encouragement is enough to change behavior. Too many people think children must pay for what they have done in the form of blame, shame, or pain. Try a hug instead.” (5)
1) Oxytocin: Go Out and Touch Someone. Zhivotovskaya, Emiliya. Positive Psychology News Daily. Web. Accessed: July 22, 2014.
2) Embrace hugging: Daily cuddles can combat infections and lowers risk of heart disease. Dobson, Roger. DailyMail.co.uk. Web. Accessed: July 22, 2014.
3) 9 Reason You Need to be Giving and Receiving Hugs Everyday. PreventDisease.com. Web. Accessed: July 22, 2014.
4) Hugs Need to be Given Properly. Dobrin, Arthur. Psychology Today. Web. Accessed: July 22, 2014.
5) I Need a Hug. Nelson, Dr. Jane. Positive Discipline. Web. Accessed: July 22, 2014.
Reviewed July 24, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith