Did you know that there is something that is really good for our health, free of charge, yet remarkably undervalued? It is readily available, environmentally-friendly and requires little or no preparation. What could it be?
It’s a hug.
We do not take notice of the health benefits of hugging, so I encourage you to start today. Give hugs as often as you can to a person, a pet, or even a tree! The benefits of hugging are remarkable.
- Alleviates feelings of loneliness
- Elevates mood
- Reduces stress
- Increases feelings of connection
- Conveys emotions without any words
- Builds self-esteem
- Increases understanding
- Reduces worries and anxiety
- Builds a sense of safety and security
- Relaxes tense muscles
- Reduces physical pain
- Boosts immune system
- Benefits cardiovascular health
- Says ‘you are loved’
- Shows that you care
- Extends joy
- Helps form bonds with others
- Increases empathy
- Helps build trust
By the way I didn’t simply make up this list! The health benefits of hugging are backed by empirical evidence. Research shows that snuggling up to someone or a pet releases the hormone oxytocin that strengthens our immune system, helps lower blood pressure, reduces the stress hormone cortisol, and improves the heart rate. There are a great many benefits to hugging, and it has even been connected to helping children toilet-train quickly.
We know that warmth and responsiveness work well for fostering children’s social competence, and there is also evidence that hugs and chatting with children work better than shouting and/or punishment.
Sometimes children or other loved ones push us away or behave in a way that really frustrates us, and we are at the end of our patience. Well, that’s possibly when they could do with a comforting hug. It won’t always be easy to offer a hug when you feel annoyed, but it may be best to offer it anyway depending on the situation. You yourself benefit from the hug as much as the other person possibly. It will help you both feel calmer, safer, and connected.
When things seem to be going terribly wrong, try remember to offer a hug. It says ‘you are loved’ without any words. Think of the last time you were in trouble or were really stressed about something. How good would it have felt if someone offered you a hug? You can be that person – and remember – we feel good when we help others. Go forth and hug!