From time to time, everyone needs a hug. Growing up whenever I was crying or upset my mom would insist on giving me a hug and every time it would make me feel better. I always thought it was just a mental thing but based on specific data I believe that hugs psychologically make people feel better. Hugs affect our entire body and create a high that is similar to that of different drugs and stimulants. Overall, any type of physical affection, especially hugging, can benefit the brain, the heart and other body systems you might never have realized.
Hugging isn’t just two people embracing but it’s a release of hormones that instantly change a persons mood. One major hormone that is released is oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is also the hormone that is sole reason we are all here today, it is released during childbirth and it hides the pain our mothers endure making it possible for them to get through it. Matt Hertenstein, DePauw University psychologist, once said, “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding. It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.” In addition to the oxytocin, dopamine is released as well. Also known as the pleasure hormone, dopamine is released as a direct result of the use cocaine and methamphetamine, stimulating drugs. Because dopamine is released during hugs people get a similar high that make them feel better and instantly motivate them and improve their moods. Although dopamine can really help a person, lack their of can cause significant damage. For example, low dopamine levels also play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine and hugs are said to adjust those levels. The power of hugs is undeniable because the results of certain MRIs and a PET scans have revealed hugs stimulate the release of dopamine, the feel-good drug. One of the last major hormones that is known to be released during hugs is serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a substance designed to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. It relays signals to the brain to regulate how a person feels. Serotonin levels determine whether a person feels happy or sad, satiated or hungry, cold or comfortable. High levels show that a person is experiencing pleasure, and negates pain and sadness. Overall, hugging is extremely beneficial because it is proven that is leads to the release of hormones that can instantly improve a person’s mood such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.
Hugging can instantly change a person’s mood for the better, but not only can it make a person feel temporarily better but the act of a hug can lead to long term health benefits. A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes lower risk of heart disease and a boost to your immune system, with these two things, a person is able to fight infections, ease depression, fight fatigue, and reduce stress. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, took the time to study the effects of hugs and personal touching. In the study, they got 50 long term couples to hold hands and hug while another group of 85 people rested quietly without their partners. The results of the experiment showed that participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quicker heart beat of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the trials. Hugging is also very beneficial to the health of children and newborn babies. Mary Carlson a Harvard Medical School neurobiologist, concluded that a lack of touching and attention stunted the growth and adversely affected the behavior of these children who had been raised in an orphanage or who had attended daycare centers of poor quality. Based on the outcome of Carlson’s study it was proven how extremely important it is for any child to receive warm hugs as they are growing up. The health benefits of hugs are undeniable so after reading this blog you should go out and hug someone that needs it because it can really benefit their health and their mood.
Throughout my life, I just threw hugs around to greet someone or say goodbye or just to express concern for their hardships but I never knew how much I was really helping them. Just a 10 second hug can immediately change a persons mood because of the release of specific hormones, and those hormones have many health benefits for people in the future. Overall, if you are having a bad day, or see someone having a bad day, seek out a hug because it can work wonders for anyone.