When was the last time you hugged someone? Did you know that a hug is a powerful way of healing the mind, body and soul? The average length of a hug is 3 seconds but when a hug lasts 20 seconds, there is a therapeutic effect on the body. Research has shown hugging is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress as it instantly boots oxytocin (love hormone) levels and releases dopamine in the brain (pleasure hormone) which gives you the feeling of happiness which in turn heals feelings of loneliness, isolation and anger. Oxytocin has many benefits in our physical and mental health as it helps us to relax, feel safe and calms our anxiety and fears. It is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rate and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Oxytocin is a chemical substance that acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress. It’s the hormone responsible for us all being here today as it’s released during childbirth, making our Mums forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured during childbirth and making them want to still love and spend time with us.
When people take the time to appreciate and acknowledge one another connections are created. A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgement of another person. The world is a busy, crazy and sometimes overwhelming place and we’re constantly rushing to the next task. By slowing down and taking a moment to offer sincere hugs throughout the day, we’re benefiting ourselves, others, and cultivating better patience within ourselves.
Affection also has a direct response on the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. Research has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including 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.
STIMULATES THE THYMUS GLAND
Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.
COMMUNICATION WITHOUT SAYING A WORD
Almost 70 percent of communication is non-verbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent way of expressing yourself non-verbally to another human being or animal. Not only can they feel the love and care in your embrace, but they can actually be receptive enough to take it forward to others based on your initiative alone.
Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. The tactile sense is all-important in infants. A baby recognises it’s parents initially by touch. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our parents while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a physical level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self- love.
Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Low dopamine levels play a role in Parkinson’s disease as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation. Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors is also associated with sensation-seeking.
Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and annul pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system.
The best part about it? Hugs are free and they can be given anytime!
Who have you hugged today?