Health & Fitness

5 More Amazing Benefits of Hugging According to Science


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Hugs are so beneficial, so we are bringing you ten more reasons why you need to hug every day.

1. Hugs Can Help to Treat Insomnia and Anxiety

Lack of sleep can create a long list of secondary health issues that can disrupt the body’s normal function, and increase the risk of serious medical problems like heart attacks. Studies have found that sleeping with weighted blankets helps insomnia and anxiety.

Weighted blankets are filled with plastic poly pellets and weigh between fifteen and thirty pounds. They work by relaxing the nervous system via extra pressure – a form of deep touch therapy. Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is felt when we touch, hold, or stroke others, or when we pet animals.

Basically, what the blanket does is to mould to the body like a warm hug. The body responds as if it is receiving physical contact, and the brain releases serotonin, causing the nervous system to relax. With the nervous system relaxed, the body is able to fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.

A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.

Bottom line: Hugs can alleviate anxiety and help us to sleep better.

2. Hugging Reduces Fear of Mortality

As human beings, we all know that we are going to die some day. This can be very frightening for people with low self esteem who feel like they are not living meaningful lives.

In a series of studies on fears and self-esteem published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers demonstrated that hugs and touch significantly reduce the fear of death and mortality.

In one particular study, participants were approached as they walked through a university campus and handed a questionnaire to fill out. Some of the participants received a light, open palmed touch from the researcher as they were handed the forms, while others were not given any physical interaction.

The results showed that participants with low self esteem, who received the physical touch, reported less death anxiety on the questionnaire than those who had not been touched.

Touch also appeared to act as a buffer against social alienation. Participants with low self esteem demonstrated no noticeable decrease in social connectedness after being reminded of death, but only if they had received a light touch.

This research suggests that touch plays a beneficial role in providing comfort and reassurance to people who are depressed and dealing with thought about their mortality.

Bottom line: Hugging can help people to accept their mortality and reduce fear of death.

3. Hugs Can Decrease Food Cravings

Often when we eat, we are eating not just because we are hungry, but for emotional reasons as well. In fact, the brain circuit that controls eating overlaps with the brain circuit that controls interpersonal relationships.

Eating actually sends oxytocin in the dopamine rich areas of the brain, making us feel pleasure and relaxation. Oxytocin is released by physical contact and supportive interactions with other people. Release of oxytocin brings on feelings of trust and generosity. It also reduces stress and anxiety. In fact, eating releases oxytocin in dopamine rich brain areas, which helps explain why eating can be soothing and pleasurable. This explains why we’re drawn to emotional eating; it mimics the same feelings of comfort we get from close friends and family.

Improving our relationships, therefore, can have an impact on weight loss. By increasing the quality and closeness of our relationships, we increase the amount of oxytocin in our system and that reduces food cravings.

Bottom line: Hugs cause the release of oxytocin which decreases food cravings and helps prevent emotional eating.

4. Hugs Increase Bonding and Strengthen Relationships

Relationship expert Dr Pam Spurr notes that the simple act of hugging can go a long way in keeping relationships healthy and happy.

For couples, hugging helps to bridge the gap between what happens in the bedroom and what happens in day-to-day life. It maintains the intimacy that occurs when making love, and ensures that partners feel emotionally connected to each other.

Hugs also provide a form of communication separate from sex, which allows couples to feel close without draining their energy. When couples touch, they let down their guard and feel love and acceptance towards their partner. Touching and hugging is the best way to maintain a strong emotional bond and connection.

Bottom Line:
Hugs are good for your intimate relationships.

5. Hugs Improve Self Esteem

Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. Touch and smell are the two most important senses in infants, and a baby recognizes its parent by touch. From the time we are born, our family’s touch shows us that we are special and loved.

A young child’s brain needs a lot of stimulation to grow and develop. Physical touch is one of the most important stimulations that can facilitate child development.

This is demonstrated in observations of infants in eastern European orphanages that that limited physical contact. They usually suffered from impaired growth and cognitive development.

Researchers have found that when institutionalized infants received an average of twenty minutes of touch a day for ten weeks, they subsequently scored higher on developmental assessments.

This association between self-worth and touch remains embedded within our nervous system as adults. Hugs remind us of the affection we received as babies, and therefore connect us to our ability to self-love.

Bottom line: Hugging contributes to childhood development of self esteem and self love which affects us later in life.

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