Research Shows That Hugs Are Really Good For Us – The Happiness Connection
Over the past two years, I have experienced a drastic reduction in the number of hugs I receive.
With my two children living in the UK, COVID protocols telling us to keep distance, and the loss of both my parents, hugs have become a relative rarity for me.
Turns out I’m not the only one thinking about hugs. The psychology research community has been busy examining the effects of hugging. The findings are particularly relevant in today’s pandemic world.
Hugs reduce the negative effects of stress
A recent study from Germany looked at the relationship between hugs and stress.
If you’re like me and don’t get the chance to hug whenever you feel the need, don’t be discouraged. These scientists were also interested in whether hugging was beneficial.
Data was collected from saliva samples, heart monitors and self-report forms. When you’re stressed, your heart rate increases and your body secretes more of the stress hormone cortisol.
After the initial readings were recorded, the participants were deliberately stressed. In this study, they used fake job interviews to do this.
Then, depending on the group they were assigned to, the 159 volunteers were either hugged for twenty seconds by a research assistant, hugged themselves for twenty seconds, or had no kind of hug at all. They were then asked to build a paper plane.
The results were clear. Participants in the hugging and self-hugging groups showed lower cortisol levels, indicating that their stress levels were lower than those in the control group.
The length of a hug makes a difference
A study from the UK looked at whether the length of a hug affects mood. Forty-five women were hugged by a member of the research team for one, five or ten seconds. The results showed that the optimal hug should last at least five seconds.
I can attest to this conclusion from my own personal experience. I have a friend who gives me long, strong hugs every time I see her. It’s not just me, it’s his hugging style. I miss those hugs and can’t wait for her to come back from Mexico.
Hugs improve the health of the elderly
A Canadian team has focused their research on the positive effects of hugs in the elderly. Data from the Canadian Community Health Survey were analyzed for over 20,000 people aged 65 and over.
People who had cuddles available to them some, most of the time, or all the time rated themselves healthier than older people who said they never had the opportunity to be cuddled. This was the case even when factors such as income, chronic illnesses and marital status were taken into account.
You may have grown up in a family where hugs were rare or non-existent. That doesn’t mean you can’t change this template.
• Consciously look for opportunities to hug others.
• Be aware of social distancing and other people’s comfort level in cuddling.
• Remember that hugging also has benefits.
• Make a habit of hugging for at least five seconds.
It’s amazing how a simple gesture can make such a big difference in your life. And, if you hug others, you make the world a better place in the process.