Reasons To Hug More
March 31, 2014

Reasons To Hug More

I admit it; I am not an especially cuddly person. I am affectionate, but my affection manifests in words and interaction more so than in hugging, cuddling, or touching. This is not to say that I never hug or cuddle, but it is not my first reaction. Moreover, I do not like to be touched by strangers at all. This is why pedicures, manicures, massages, and even medical appointments are very hard for me. To take this a bit further, I simply cringe at the thought of my face being touched by anyone. I do not even like my loved ones to touch my face. Ever. I do not wear make-up specifically because I cannot stand to have my face touched.

Now I know this makes me look to be neurotic, but that is not the case. I do hug and give physical affection to loved ones, and I do love and support all people I encounter. But I’m not a particularly cuddly gal.

However, I know the importance of physical affection, especially the hug, so I am working on this. Recently, I have been researching information about the importance of physical affection, specifically of hugs. In that, I came across this really great article on the Huffington Post that identified seven reasons to give and get more hugs. This has helped me to want to hug more, so let’s take a look at the advice.

The first reason the article identifies for giving more hugs is that they make us feel good. Quite literally, our bodies react by releasing the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which has also been linked to social bonding and that further helps make us feel good.

Secondly, some studies show that hugging correlated with lower blood pressure. As the Huff Post article explains, “When someone touches you, the sensation on your skin activates pressure receptors called Pacinian corpuscles, which then send signals to the vagus nerve, an area of the brain that is responsible for (among many things) lowering blood pressure.”

Third, hugs just might play a role in helping to alleviate our fears. How is this? Well, the Huffington Post identified a study on fears and self-esteem that shows that hugs and touch reduce worry of mortality pretty significantly. The hug could be from a person, a pet, or even just hugging an inanimate object like a stuffed animal and still the participant felts their fears soothed. That is pretty compelling.

Next, the article says that hugging can be good for the heart, and I do not mean in the figurative sense. Quite literally, hugging just might be good medicine. One study showed increased heart rate for those who did not have hugs from their partners. Heart health is crucial to a healthy life, so this also really compels.

Continuing on, just who benefits the most from hugs? One might think that it would be children since they are still growing and learning, but the truth is that adults can benefit the most from hugging. In the words of the article, “Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have averse health effects. By hugging someone, we instantly feel closer to that person and decrease feelings of loneliness.”

Additionally, hugs have been shown to be natural stress relievers. Just as a hug release oxytocin, it also reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. Plus, they make our bodies release tension, which builds up and adds to stress, and they send messages to the brain to calm down.

Finally – and if this does not convince us, I don’t know what will – babies who are hugged regularly are less stressed adults, which means they are likely happier and healthier adults.

Like I said earlier, I am not opposed to hugs, but I am not just a natural hugger. However, this article provides some really incredible reasons to become a hugger. Beyond the health benefits like feeling good, lower stress, and heart health, the connections that hugging makes definitely inspires me to hug more. So, take a chance with me, and let’s hug more.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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