Not that we need National Hugging Day to motivate us, but we’ve found five reasons that back the benefits of hugging the people you care about. So, get to it.
There are many ways to describe a hug. From an enthusiastic squeeze to a warm embrace, or a romantic cuddle to a maternal cradle, the way we hug each other says a lot about who we are and the moment at hand. In addition to our style of holding someone close, there are also many benefits of hugging, making the act of body-to-body contact even more rewarding than you may think.
National Hugging Day is an annual event dedicated to, you guessed it, hugging. Created by Kevin Zaborney, it has become a recurring event that takes place every year on January 21. Although it was first celebrated in 1986 in Clio, Michigan, it has since become a holiday that’s observed in several other countries around the world. Originally thinking his idea would fail, Zaborney proposed the holiday anyway, and chose the date January 21 because it fell during a time when “people are generally low in spirits” (after the Christmas holiday, but before Valentine’s Day). Zaborney’s motive stemmed from the idea that “American society is embarrassed to show feelings in public.” Now, some twenty years later, the holiday surrounding the power of an embrace is still holding strong.
In an effort to encourage more hugs (within each party’s comfort zone, of course) and celebrate National Hugging Day on January 21, 2017, we’ve dedicated an entire post to exploring the many benefits of hugging. From lifting your spirits and combatting depression to creating a sense of emotional freedom from the trappings of culture and the virtual wall created by social media, we’ve given you not one, but five different reasons that back the benefits of hugging.
1. Hugs Are Uplifting
You can’t see it, but hugs actually work from the inside-out. The act of hugging another person causes our brains to release the hormone oxytocin, making us feel closer and more connected to one another. Some studies also show that serotonin and dopamine are released, leading to even greater feel-good emotions.
2. Hugs Improve Health and Stress
Stress and health are deeply intertwined, so when we’re feeling stressed our immune system is often lowered and we become more susceptible to getting sick, increasing inflammation throughout our bodies, and a host of other triggers. Fortunately, engaging in a hug lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that patients with arthritis, breast cancer, and women in labor all benefit from touch. Additionally, hugging can also reduce your risk of catching stress-induced colds, leading to better overall health and mental function.
3. Hugs Help Babies (and the Elderly)
People young and old are thought to especially benefit from hugging and physical touch. When you hug babies and young children often throughout early development, it helps them cope with immediate stressors and is believed to better prepare them to cope with stress as adults. And when it comes to adults, the older you are the more important hugs become. Loneliness and fragility all warrant lots of hugs from caring people for the aging population.
4. Hugs Aid Communication
Whether it’s a death, a major life event, or even something worth celebrating, sometimes the words just aren’t there. Fortunately, there’s nonverbal communication. When you can’t think of the appropriate thing to say, or wish to reinforce your words, there’s nothing quite like a hug to seal the deal.
5. Hugs Provide Freedom
Some cultures and individual family units don’t hug regularly. In addition to the act of physical touch feeling foreign or not being a necessity in life, this leads to a longing for intellectual growth and freedom. By stepping outside of our comfort zones, the act of hugging can make us more open in terms of showing affection, expressing feelings, and happier overall.
Don’t have anyone to hug? Averse to human contact because of anxiety or other reasons? You don’t have to feel left out. Reach for your furry friends. Studies show that cuddling and stroking pets have many of the same benefits as human contact. And remember, you may have the best intentions on National Hugging Day, but consent is always important before embracing strangers, friends, and those who may not feel comfortable being touched. Make sure the benefits of hugging are truly benefiting all parties involved.
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