when we think about trying to live in a more healthy way, our minds usually head towards thoughts of eating more vegetables, running more, hitting the gym, or even just being more mindful of our hydration levels. One thing that doesn’t usually find its way into that list, however, is taking more time to cuddle up with your sweetheart… but it should! In it’s own way, hugging a loved one can offer just as many benefits to your health as eating kale, and is probably just a little bit more widely enjoyed.
The main major benefit that hugging has to offer is that an extended hug (we’re talking a real hug here – 10 seconds or more of serious, committed hugging… it’s not that hard) raises the body’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that lowers our heart rate and cortisol (stress) levels. Fun fact, oxytocin is also the hormone released at childbirth, to make the process a little more bearable and make sure that the new mommas don’t already resent the tiny baby that is causing them so much pain! In addition to lowering your stress and heart rate, the oxytocin released in your body during a hug also works to promote bonding and increased trust with the person you’re hugging. Not surprisingly, studies show that women tend to reap greater oxytocin benefits from hugging than men do, and people who are in loving relationships tend to cultivate even higher levels of this magic hormone during a hug… but that doesn’t mean hugging is a relationship-exclusive thing! Hug everyone, because why not? Spread the love, bonding, and oxytocin.
Another magic hug hormone is dopamine, which most people are familiar with, as it is the same hormone that is targeted by so many addictive drugs. Known as the pleasure hormone, dopamine is released in the brain during a hug… so literally, go for hugs and not drugs! Additionally, holding a hug for an extended period of time can also raise seratonin levels, which causes an elevated mood and increased happiness.
Aside from helping to promote a more healthy lifestyle, giving more hugs can also supplement your already healthy lifestyle – hugging can actually help us recover from that extra-intense workout, since it helps relax the muscles and release tension, promotion extra blood flow to soft tissue, which accelerates your body’s recovery time. Good excuse for more sweaty hugs.The list goes on and on: it has anti-inflammatory properties, can promote skin hydration, and causes an increased white blood cells production, which helps fight off disease. But the main point is this: hugging is literally essential to your health. So today, instead of letting yourself get bogged down by all the things you’re not doing, run out and hug the first person you see. That will give you both all the healing you need.