Elephants do it. Monkeys do it. And we should all be doing it more often. Before your mind races off with you, we are talking about HUGGING here! Have you ever just felt the need for a hug and wondered why that is? Did you know that all mammals hug? There’s actually a good reason for it.
Just stop for a minute and think about what we learn from a hug…
In a single embrace we can gauge through touch if someone is angry, distant, or really into us. A hug shows us that we trust the other person enough to touch them.
Hugging releases oxytocin. This is the “feel good” chemical of the brain. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide (a signaling molecule produced by neurons) that promotes feelings of devotion and trust. In an interview with NPR, Matt Hertenstein — a psychologist at DePauw University — said on the release of oxytocin, “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.”
Hugging reduces stress. Cortisol levels drop when hugged and when this happens the feel-good chemicals rise. And when dopamine and serotonin rise, a person feels better.
Hugging can help lower blood pressure. Have you ever reached out to someone who is very upset? This can help that angry moment melt, deeper breathing occurs, and that anger isn’t so hot anymore. Why? Because our skin receptors send messages to the vagus nerve resulting in the lowering of heart rate and pressure.
Quite simply, if you want to feel better, HUG MORE! Hug when you need to feel better and when someone else needs a boost.