Health

11 Life-Changing Benefits Of Hugs

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  6 min read
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There’s nothing like a warm hug. It’s all squishy and safe. Hugs make us sigh and take a moment to just breathe and hold onto someone we care about.

Everyone needs a hug sometimes. In truth, we need them way more often than we may think. There’s a reason that huggers (like me) tend to tackle life’s difficulties with a bit more ease. There is no denying the life-changing benefits of hugs. So here are the top 11 reasons you should hug someone today, or even just hug yourself for a moment as you read this!

1. Hugs Increase Our Physical Health

Hugs don’t just make us feel good for no reason. There’s a series of chemical reactions that work when two or more people smush themselves together in a sweet display of huggery. Hugs specifically lower blood pressure, encourage white blood cell production, balance the nervous system, decrease rapid heart rates, cure fevers, and boost energy. All of these health benefits combine to improve how our bodies work. 

2. Hugs Combat Depression, Anxiety, and Stress

As the physical benefits of hugging get our bodies in check, the mental effects are just as great. Hugs are known to ease depression. By reducing heart rates and lowering blood pressure, they also reduce anxiety, but not only that, hugging a friend or loved one quells the fears that caused the anxiety in the first place. Long hugs, like 20-seconds or more, also release oxytocin and reduce cortisol in the body.

Long hugs, like 20-seconds or more, release oxytocin and reduce cortisol in the body.

3. Hugs Make Us Feel Safer

The right hug from the right person automatically makes us feel safer. This may be a holdover from childhood, where a hug from a parent, grandparent, or other trusted adult made everything better. Hugs reinforce that sense of self and encourage us to stop what we’re doing and just sink into the love our support system provides. When we feel safe, we think more effectively and make better decisions.

4. Hugs Help Babies Grow into More Successful Adults

Noting those childhood hugs, it has been proven that hugging babies and giving them the physical affection they crave helps develop the ability to bond and form attachments, prevents sensory disorders, and helps them grow into successful adults.

A 1944 experiment found that hugs are so essential to newborn babies that half of those who went without any affection actually died after 4 months. As one observer noted, "they weren't ill, their nutritional needs were being meticulously met and yet they died anyway. It was said that the babies became expressionless before they passed away. None of the babies in the affection group died."

Talk about serious, life-altering benefits. Who doesn’t want to hug a baby? Sure they might spit up on you, but when they cling to you, their sweet little hugs are well worth the mess. 

5. Hugs Increase Self-Esteem

Whether hugging a child or an adult, these caring embraces increase our self-esteem. It’s hard to feel self-conscious when someone pulls you tight and shows you that you matter to them. We not only see our value, but we also share it, and help the person hugging us feel good about themselves as well. This, again, goes back to those childhood hugs that are so important for our development.

Hugging helps babies develop the ability to bond and prevents sensory disorders.

6. Hugs Strengthen Relationships 

Hugging reduces loneliness. When the world gets to be too much for us, sharing a squish with someone who cares helps us value the people in our lives. It bonds us further and strengthens those special ties we share with friends and family members who offer understanding. 

7. Hugs Boost Your Immune System

Another great physical benefit of hugs is that they boost our immune system. The pressure from hugging triggers the thymus gland which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells. If we do get sick, hugs can help us experience less severe symptoms. How our bodies act and react along with our mental health and everything we go through is all connected. A simple hug can offer us some much-needed preventative healing measures. Talk about a positive side-effect!

8. Hugs Reduce Anger

If you have an Irish temper (like me), sometimes you just need a hug. Even mellow people can better cope or even reduce their anger with a little squeeze from a special someone. Hugs pull us out of our frustration and remind us to breathe deeply and appreciate what we’ve got going on. That’s powerful enough to help stop any fight and prevent angry outbursts or issues. 

Hugs pull us out of our frustration and remind us to breathe deeply.

9. Hugging Regenerates Muscles

Okay, this is a seriously awesome one. One study injected oxytocin, a hormone released when hugging, into elderly mice and found that it helped the elderly mice to regenerate muscles at the same rate as younger mice. Sure, these are rodents we’re talking about, but mice have more in common with humans than we think. They’re generally used in medical studies seeking approval to test on consenting adults because we share so many biological and psychological traits. 

10. Hugs Help Us Sleep Better

Having trouble sleeping at night? Try getting more hugs before bed. Seriously. Hugging helps people to rest easier through the night. 

11. Hugs Reduce Pain

This last one really shocked me. I knew hugs were a great way to improve overall health and wellness, but they can actually reduce pain. One study confirmed that patients with fibromyalgia experienced less pain and greater quality of life from touch treatments like light hugging. 

Closing Thoughts

Hugs are a fun, happy way to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. As science has clearly shown, the benefits of hugs can be quite literally life-changing. Taking all of this into consideration, is it any wonder why so many Americans are struggling deeply with mental health in a distant, masked, and expressionless society?

Virginia Satir, a respected family psychotherapist, said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” So go on, stretch out those arms and lean in for a nice soothing hug. 

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