There are many ways to hug and many reasons to hug.
We hug to show love, support, and excitement. A hug says I care for you, I am here for you, I am happy to see you. We have been hugging since we were infants holding onto our caregivers, bonding and connecting during those beginning years of life.
We need hugs. We need touch. It is a human need like water, sleep, and food.
Unfortunately, many of us are becoming more disconnected. We are busy. We are rushing to the next thing on our to-do lists. Our lives have become more filled with screens and technology which means fewer face-to-face interactions with others.
Even when we’re together, it seems we’re not always practicing togetherness. We have all been out in restaurants or shopping and noticed others who appear to be with family or friends and yet instead of connecting, they are looking down at their phones.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we see depression and anxiety rates on the rise in America. We are connecting less in person and that means we are touching less. Fewer hugs mean sadder, less fulfilled lives.
Are You Getting and Giving Enough Hugs?
So how much hugging are you doing every day? Have you hugged someone today? What about yesterday? Can you think of someone who gives good hugs?
I have a great nephew, Tanner, who is 2 years old. Tanner is without a doubt one of the best huggers I have ever known. He is getting bigger now and harder to hold but everyone is still picking him up for his hugs. Our family talks about it regularly – isn’t Tanner a lover? Have you ever known a baby to hug like Tanner? I see my family passing him around and everyone is clearly elated.
When Tanner puts his head on your shoulder or his cheek next to yours, the feeling is amazing. In fact, it is truly heavenly. I am in awe of this kid and everyone who knows him is as well. His hugs are a gift.
The Health & Emotional Benefits of Hugging
What do hugs give us that is so essential to our mental, emotional, and physical health? Hugs give you a shot of the love hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin gives you a feeling of warmth, safety, and connection.
I’m sure you can remember a hug with a loved one – think about the feel-good vibe you got. That is oxytocin. Just watch people hugging and you will feel something. Get on Netflix and watch the beginning of the movie, Love Actually. It shows people hugging happily at the airport – that will put a smile on your face.
Hugs Can Help Boost Your Immune System
A study published in Psychological Science showed that participants were less likely to become ill when they were receiving hugs regularly. Hugging was like a stress barrier that boosted the immune system. The act of hugging provides support and comfort. This feeling of support acts as a barrier to the effects of disease.
Hugs Can Help Decrease Stress
Hugging can also decrease the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is good if you are in a fight or flight response situation. It gets your body ready to handle danger but too much cortisol too often leads to some serious health concerns such as weight gain, heart disease, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression.
How Many Hugs Do You Need?
The British Journal of Nursing recommends four hugs a day for survival, eight for mental stability, and 12 for psychological growth.
Get Your Hug On
There are many ways to give and receive affection. Of course, if you have a loved one you see regularly then hopefully you can hug them but it’s always good to have options. You don’t always need another person to receive the benefits of hugging. You just need an open heart and mind. Here are some other ways to get your hug on when you don’t have a friend or loved one available to hug and get hugs from.
Hug Your Pet
We love our pets like family members. Pets bring many benefits of their own. Most pets love to be petted and cuddled. So, you will get some love and affection plus your pet will feel good. Don’t own a pet then head to the pet store and visit with their pets. You can get the feel-good vibes without bringing a pet home.
Hug a Body Pillow
There are so many types of body pillows out there or buy yourself a big teddy bear and hug away. You can hug in bed or on your couch while you watch tv. I have one that has a fuzzy soft cover. I love the feel of it, it’s so soothing to rub it.
Hug a Tree
I have done this a lot. I love nature. Nature is like a balm to our fast-paced, overloaded lives. You can visit your local park or head out into your backyard for some vitamin N (nature). Nature doesn’t hurry or worry so being around that energy is healing. When you hug a tree, you feel it’s strength and stability. I imagine its roots deep in the earth. I feel myself giving love to the tree and the earth and I feel it coming back to me.
Get a Massage
A massage will give you all the benefits of touch. Massage therapy helps reduce pain, muscle soreness and promotes relaxation. Don’t want a stranger rubbing on your body then you buy a personal massager for a chair massager for your home.
This is the one I think is most important. It is essential that we are loving to ourselves – loving with our words and loving with our touch. Hugging yourself promotes self-care. The ability to self-care and having a routine of self-care activities helps us reduce stress in all areas.
Mindfulness and a self-care routine can help you navigate this journey. You can take it to another level and have some fun by giving yourself some challenges or goals to strive for.
Why not set a hugging challenge for yourself or with your friends and family? This will mean communicating because not everyone may be feeling a hug. But set out to reach those 12 hugs a day for psychological growth. Hugging others and yourself. Keep track of your hugs on your phone and be in the moment when you are hugging.
Mantras are a wonderful way to dive deeper into the moment. So while you are practicing your hugging routines – try incorporating some calming mantras. It takes a long time to realize we can’t control what is outside of us. Our focus must go within for ultimate health and wellness. Mantras help rewire your mind and connect more to your higher self.
Hugs are an easy way to get and give stress relief. Everyone can use the feel-good vibes that hugging offers. Happy hugging.
About the Author
Angie Grandstaff is a writer, librarian and full time joy seeker who currently resides in Kentucky. She loves to write about self-development, books and history. You can find more information about Angie at https://agrandhope.com/