You’ve probably seen people who are offering free hugs. At first, no one wants to hug them, but once somebody starts, it’s very contagious and everybody wants to give or receive a hug.
Hugs have something magical and also many benefits for your health.
For example, hugs that last longer than 6 seconds, release the chemical oxytocin in your body. It’s one of your happy chemicals and is also known as the social or love chemical since it is triggered i.e. by trust.
Hugs will also decrease the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body, as many studies suggest, but they have to last for at least 6 to 10 seconds.
As a result, you will not only feel more relaxed, but your health will be better as well. One study associated those improved chemical markers with lower risk of heart disease, lower stress levels, less fatigue, a boost for your immune system and release of depression.
The problem is that one-third of people, don’t receive any hugs at all, and 75% wish to get more hugs on a regular basis.
As I mentioned in the beginning, some people offer free hugs to strangers, but it is suggested that you only take the offer if you feel comfortable with it. Otherwise, the exact opposite might happen and you get more stressed.
Studies also found out that cuddling with your pet increases the good chemicals in your body, which is one reason why ill pet owners usually need less time recovering, due to their higher levels of oxytocin.
Oxytocin, which is researched more intense right now, has another healthy benefit, as it reduces cravings for drugs and sugar.
Whether hugs for your family or for your friends, they will not only make you happier, the one giving the hug, but also the one receiving the hug, which reveals the reciprocal nature of touch.
Even if you can’t get hugs on a regular basis, you might think about getting a pet, since spending a few minutes with your pet will already increase the level of “feel good hormones”, including oxytocin in your body.
Besides that there are other (free) ways to increase the levels of oxytocin.
holding hands & kissing.
giving and receiving a back rub.
getting a massage
doing breathing exercises or yoga.
You could also increase your oxytocin levels in your body by eating specific foods, i.e. bananas, eggs and pepper.
Steps to take:
Make a (mental) list of people you can hug today.
Hug them for at least 6 seconds. Maybe even tell them, “I’m going to hug you for 6 seconds, don’t be confused.”
Use one of the other techniques to release oxytocin.