Hugging is a great form of affection. It involves the act of hugging another person closely, usually for an extended period, as a way to show affection or just to get comfortable with a trusted person. It is a relaxing and enjoyable activity for most, even if you do eventually have to untangle due to heat or discomfort.
But are hugs nothing more than an expression of love? It’s probably more important than that. You see, every time you do something, it is affecting your mind and body in some way, shape or form. Some are positive, some are negative, some are neutral, and some are so tiny that their results don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
So where does hugs come into play? Hugs are believed to be helpful for you! Skin-to-skin contact and human contact in general have long been touted as “remedies” for specific problems. If you’ve ever heard someone say they need a hug, or if you’ve ever felt that way, then you know that hugs can make you feel better.
But is the effect that significant? Is this a reason to increase your hug quota? Do hugs improve your mental health? This is how counselors explain this phenomenon.
1. Touch is a form of communication
Human beings want to communicate with the people around them. Even introverts like to be connected with others to some degree. And it turns out that physical contact is an almost universally recognized form of communication. According to clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, Ph.D., is essential to the way we interact.
Why is it so powerful as a communication tool? Well, the fact that it is non-verbal means that it communicates things that are difficult to say, like assurance, trust, and even love. For many people, this helps improve their mood, making them feel closer to others, and at the same time promotes feelings of security.
2. Hugging promotes positive bonding
Alright, hugs make you feel more connected, which is great for you. But did you know that it can also go one step further? Basically, hugs can promote bonding, especially couple bonding in relationships, thus facilitating stronger interpersonal experiences that contribute to mental health. According to the author and clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., these are some of the ways hugs do this.
Early relationship bonding
Not all people enjoy physical relationships, and that’s okay! But science indicates that if you’re looking to promote a new connection for long-term success, you may want to be loving. This is due to the release of oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, which helps promote positive bonding, especially in the early stages of the relationship.
It turns out that feel-good hormones, like oxytocin, are released during stressful situations. This proves that the body considers it appropriate to use positive Neurotransmitters like this to help ease duress and tough times, and hugging, in turn, can likely help even more. Since hugs produce those hormones, you’ll benefit from a partner’s support during tough times if you get close! You will feel better and bond with them at the same time.
Your mental health gets a quick boost when you feel truly wanted, wanted, and loved, especially in close relationships. Hugging strengthens the bond between the couple by making both parties feel wanted by the other. It is a wonderful feeling and experience!
Couple bonding after intimacy
Intimacy in the bedroom itself can facilitate bonding between stakeholders. But once it’s over, the oxytocin levels in all the parts involved tend to drop. To maintain the strength of the bond through this hormone, intimate partners can snuggle after their nightly activities, retaining intimacy and giving them positive thinking drives.
3. Hugs make you resistant to anxiety and depression
Hugging activates a part of the body known as the parasympathetic nervous system. Clinical psychologist and professor of psychology James Cordova, Ph.D., states that this activation leads to a relaxed and stable feeling of tranquility and relaxation.
In turn, this can help the body better cope with emotions related to sadness and anxiety. In people without mental disorders, this is already useful. But in those with anxiety and depression, it is even more beneficial!
The positive thinking you can get from the serenity brought on by hugging allows you to combat the worst symptoms of depression and anxiety. You will become resistant to the increasing severity of these disorders or to developing them if you don’t have them.
4. Hugging helps you sleep
When you hug yourself, you can naturally feel a little more relaxed. This can allow you to fall asleep more quickly, he says. researcher, immunologist and professor Lina Velikova, MD. She adds that this allows the body to receive improved restful sleep or deep sleep.
Deep sleep, also known as rapid eye movement (REM) rest, is crucial for mental health. Lack of it can lead to:
- Emotional dysregulation
- Hormonal fluctuations
In other words, without REM sleep, your psychological state is going downhill.
Fortunately, hugs will probably help you sleep better! This is even psychologically supported by research. A study that looked at this, titled “Bed sharing with a partner is associated with increased and stabilized REM sleep and synchronization of the sleep stage,” found that young, healthy couples may experience better REM sleep when hugging, even if they move more in potentially disturbing ways during sleep.
Interestingly, this research found that your body may be less relaxed when sleeping with someone or hugging someone, but your brain remains just as calm, if not more. So even if you or your partner tend to be picky about sleeping, trying to snuggle while you sleep at night can ensure that you get the deep sleep you need for mental health.
We mentioned in passing why the oxytocin in cuddles helps with certain aspects of mental health. But what is even more important, we should see how oxytocin alone is able to improve the psychological state.
Sarah Watson Licensed Professional Counselor talks about how most of the benefits of cuddling are related to increased oxytocin because it is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. It’s basically a free and easy way to post positive chemicals that balance your mood and make you happier.
This is also why oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone.” It rises every time you sit close to, hug or touch others, especially when it comes to people you love or care about. Oxytocin helps:
- Reduce stress levels
- Produces happy emotions
- Improve positive thinking
- Lower blood pressure
- Balance norepinephrine, the stress hormone
6. Starving for touch is harmful
It’s completely okay not to enjoy physical contact most of the time. But ultimately and completely, refraining from doing so is incredibly bad for your health! Cordova discusses the concept of contact hunger, which means that it lacks physical affection, either given or received, whatsoever.
Most neurotypical humans have a natural desire to seek touch, and there is a reason for this. Touch, specifically skin-to-skin contact, is necessary to:
- Stress management
- Relaxation of the heart rate
- Relaxation of blood pressure.
- Regulation of hormones
- Calm the nervous system
- Manage negative emotions
- Reduce feelings of social exclusion and loneliness
- Emotional health
- Physical Health
On the other hand, contact starvation leads to:
- Low satisfaction with relationships
- Attachment avoidance
7. Hugs help control social anxiety
If you often feel anxious around other people, a hug from someone you trust can help ease those fears. It sounds counterintuitive at first, as it will add physical contact to the social anxiety mix, but it’s actually quite known to be helpful. It creates a peaceful environment and can help you feel safe and cared for.
Jeff Nalin, Psy.D, CEO and Founder of the Paradigm Malibu Treatment Center., also a licensed clinical psychologist, states that hugs are beneficial for all types of people with social fears, not just those with social anxiety. People with PTSD and autism can also benefit.
8. Hugging makes your body healthier
Have you ever heard that a healthy body makes a healthier mind? Good is true! Hugging provides all kinds of physical health benefits that can make your brain smarter and happier. According to Romanoff, here are some of the health benefits of hugs:
A healthier heart
Given that heart conditions are so prevalent around the world, it’s surprising to think that the simple act of hugging can regulate and help positive cardiovascular function. This is because hugging lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Although the connection to mental health is not direct, few can deny that knowing that your heart is in bad shape is a prey to your mind, so it is good to keep your heart healthy for the sake of your mental health as well.
the oxytocin released during cuddling sessions it is famous for triggering a reflex known as the “rest and digest” reflex. This is a great way to tell your body to calm down and use your energy to improve certain functions, including digestion. It reduces stress across the board and focuses on boosting your body’s natural functioning, all of which are beneficial for mental health.
When you hug people, you are less likely to develop illness when exposed to viruses, according to research. It’s a bit strange to think that being closer to other people can reduce your chance of getting sick, even if you are exposing yourself to a virus in the process, but it’s true! The more social support you have, especially when expressing yourself physically, the stronger your immune system will be in fighting off pathogens. If you’ve ever felt bad when you’ve been sick, then you know how better immunity can help your psychological state! Just don’t be irresponsible with this information; There must be a balance between being safe from viruses and getting your dose of love.
Hugging is a great way to express love, find comfort, seek relaxation, and improve your mental health in many ways. The cuddle hormone, oxytocin, is certainly powerful! Not everyone likes to cuddle, and it’s okay if you’re one of those people! Substituting it for gentler, less intimate forms of physical contact will provide similar effects. A little communication goes a long way!