Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Value of a Hug

All humans have an innate need for physical, non-sexual, touch. Think of a baby, if the mother weren't there to hold a screaming baby, it would go on crying as it sought something to comfort it. There are many infants who have suffered from failure to thrive due to minimalistic touching by the parents. Basically, all humans need touch to survive and live a healthy life. Have you gotten a hug today? 

There have been several scientific studies done that prove there are health benefits to getting regular hugs. First, in the book The How of Happiness Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses an experiment she did in which she formed two groups, one a control and one with an assignment. The assignment was to hug five different people each day for a month.

Respondents in the hugging group reported that they felt happier.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina also carried out a study that measured brain chemicals before and after a hug. Results showed that hugging often can help lower blood pressure in women. This may be why women love to cuddle so much. On another note, about 10 years ago, Cornell's School of Hotel Administration completed a study showing that restaurant servers who casually touched their clients got a higher tip.

There is an actual chemical process that happens when we are touched, or receive a hug, from someone. Our brain begins to produce two of our “happy” hormones, oxytocin and serotonin. The production of these chemicals can be maximized if you hold a hug for at least six seconds. Many therapists recommend getting more physical touch in order helping their clients better their relationships between spouses or other family members. By touching, you create a deeper connection with a person.

It's harder to get angry at someone or be annoyed with them if you two are touching. Give it a try sometime and see if you are less annoyed with your children or an old friend by making it a point to give them a hug everyday. If there is a specific time of day when you always feel highly stressed, such as during the morning rush, take a second to give a loved one a hug. Not only will your own stress decrease, but you will be building a stronger relationship with your hug-ee.

The benefits to hugging are a lot more powerful than you may realize. If you are feeling sad or unhappy, why not try to set a goal to get at least one hug a day. Even if you feel shy about asking someone for a hug, it will be worth the effort. At the end of each day, as you get into bed, be accountable and ask yourself, “Did I get a hug today?”

About the Author
Tiffani Azani is a freelance writer on MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers is a tool for prospective students to help them connect with and online schools who can help them earn a college diploma.