October is Pro-Touch Awareness Month, and we feel this would be a great time to explore some of the benefits of our primary service; providing comforting and caring hugs, through our cuddle sessions. Science has shown us that touch is crucial for our wellbeing, and in this post we’ll explore some of the reasons why hugs are good us.
1. Hugs can help reduce stress
Our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol, when we’re stressed. When we remain stressed for long periods of time, this can create a large number of secondary health issues. However, when we receive a hug, oxytocin is released which helps us feel more calm and relaxed, thereby reducing stress levels.
2. Hugging may help lower blood pressure
When we hug, pressure receptors are activated, which send a signal to the part of our brain that is responsible for lowering blood pressure.
3. They boost our immune system and lower the risk of infections
According to the founder of the Touch Research Institute, Tiffany Field, touch increases the number of natural killer cells in our body, which are “the frontline of the immune system.” Natural killer cells help reduce disease and illness by warding off viral and cancer cells.
A study from Carnegie Mellon University also showed that people who were stressed had a lower risk of infection when exposed to the common cold, if they had adequate social support in their lives and received more frequent hugs.
4. Hugs protect against heart disease
It’s been suggested that hugs can help protect against heart disease as they lower the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for blood pressure and heart disease.
5. They increase levels of serotonin
Hugs release serotonin into the body, which can make us feel happier and more confident. Some health issues such as obesity and depression are linked to a serotonin imbalance in the body. Hugs may therefore be able to help some people suffering from these conditions.
6. They can help balance the nervous system
Hugs have the ability to balance out the nervous system. A network of small, egg-shaped pressure centres within our skin can sense touch and they connect to our brain via the nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is said to be more balanced as a result of the change in skin conductance of people giving and receiving hugs.
7. Hugs help people suffering from touch deprivation
Touch deprivation is a condition that affects people who lack skin contact and touch in their lives. A wealth of science has showed that touch is essential for our wellbeing, from the day we’re born to the day we die. Hugs are a great way of providing both the touch and social connection we need to thrive as individuals. You can find out more about the signs of touch deprivation here.
8. Hugging can help lower feelings of isolation and loneliness
According to research published by UCL in 2017, affectionate touch has the ability to mitigate feelings of loneliness. This means that hugs can help people who suffer from social isolation, which we’ve explained in more detail in a previous blog post. In addition, cuddles release oxytocin, which is known as the bonding hormone and regulates social interaction – thereby helping us feel more connected.
9. Hugging can help people suffering from anxiety
Hugs release feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin, which help us feel more relaxed and happier. Tiffany Field describes serotonin as a ‘natural antidepressant’, which also helps fight depression.
10. They can help improve self-esteem and happiness
Tactile sensations and self-worth from our early years remain embedded in our nervous system into adulthood. This means that affection from our parents and family remain with us on a cellular level, and hugs we receive throughout our lives remind us of this at a somatic level.
11. They help relieve pain
In an article for the Guardian, Tiffany Field explains that serotonin is “the body’s natural pain killer”. Serotonin is one of the chemicals released when we cuddle, which explains why hugs are seen to be a natural analgesic that people turn to when they’re emotionally or physically hurt or in distress.
12. Hugs can help fight fear
A study published by Psychological Science showed that touch can reduce fears about mortality, while also providing comfort and reassurance at the same time.
13. Hugs act as a form of caring communication
When we hug, oxytocin is released which is known as the bonding hormone and helps create trust between two individuals. Not only do hugs act as a form of support, but they also calm us down and help us feel emotionally and psychologically connected to one and other.
While studies differ in regards to the figure, it’s been suggested that around 70% of our communication is nonverbal, which makes hugs a great way of showing you care about someone else.
14. Hugs increase muscle relaxation
Hugging can release tension and relax muscles. They soothe aches and pains by increasing circulation into soft tissue.
15. Hugging can increase empathy
One of the many positive impacts of oxytocin release, is an increase in levels of empathy, even between people who are hugging one and other as strangers.
We’ll leave you with a fitting quote from Family Therapist, Virginia Satir, who once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”