Hugging has immense neurological benefit – it helps to strengthen your immune system, increase your circulation and calm your sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve systems as well as give you a sense of belonging and a feeling of being safe. And… the longer you hold the hug the more benefit you get!
However, with social distancing, dramatically reduced human contact, and more digital than physical interactions, many people are running short on hugs. Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
So… how many hugs are you getting each day?
A study in 2012 found that people who were raised by parents, who were huggers, were more likely to be huggers into adulthood. In contrast those who were raised by non-huggers the very thought of hugging makes them uncomfortable. There are primarily two ways that being ‘hug aversive ‘ can affect your body:
- It can lead to an underdeveloped Vagus nerve which may decrease intimacy and compassion.
- It can lead to a reduction in the hormone oxytocin which is often referred to as the ‘mothers love hormone’ as it helps the mother of a newborn ‘attune’ to her baby. Oxytocin helps to form bonds with other people. Without it, it’s harder to pick up on social cues and even be sociable.
So, why do we need to hug?
- From a physical perspective hugging can increase your self-esteem.
- From a chemical perspective hugs increase your oxytocin ‘love’ hormone
- From an emotional perspective they increase your feeling of safety.
- From a neurological perspective hugs help to strengthen your immune system.
And… did you know that extended hugging, 20 seconds or more, boosts your serotonin levels, resulting in feelings of happiness and being more positive?
Are you getting enough hugs?