As the holidays roll around, family and friends will be coming and going. With arrivals and departures, come greetings, goodbyes and lots of hugs! I could make a bulleted list of the germs we share in the process of hugging (it is very easy these days to focus on all the particles exchanged during human interaction), but I won’t! Instead, let’s talk about all of the fabulousness that comes along with sharing a warm embrace.
People need human contact.
Gentle hugs between casual acquaintances, delicate hugs with grandmas, and full-body bear hugs from moms and dads all add value to our lives. The COVID pandemic was a cruel reminder of our need for human touch, and it lasted far too long. But typical holiday parties have mostly returned, along with hand shaking, fist bumps, hugs, and kisses. And many of us are absolutely thrilled with the comeback of the big human squeeze.
- More hugs equal lower blood pressure. Science shows hugs are better than sitting next to someone and even better than holding hands when it comes to reducing blood pressure. (This is especially true for pre-menopausal women!)
- Touch reduces stress in the person receiving comfort AND giving it! Give a hug or get a hug. Either way, it will be good for you.
- Hugs strengthen your immune system. Oxytocin can be released with the sensory stimulation of a hug, which can make wounds heal more easily.
- Hugs can decrease fears! Even hugging a teddy bear can calm your fright.
- Hugs can boost your self-esteem. People with low self-esteem can benefit more significantly from a good long squeeze.
- Hugs might improve your mood. Serotonin levels rise and increase the feelings of pleasure and happiness. (Low levels of serotonin can cause depression.)
- Hugs can ease your pain. Therapeutic touch has been studied in recent years with chronic disease treatment and has shown some promising results.
- Hugs can help kids stay healthy, raise their self-esteem, improve empathy skills, and better understand the value of expressing their emotions.
This season, be generous with your holiday hugging. Keep in mind individuals who live in households alone without frequent access to loving arms and give them a few more. An unknown author coined the phrase that “hugs are health food” to feed our soul. They are carb-free, fat-free, gluten-free, pesticide-free and vegetarian-friendly. It has been recommended that four hugs a day are needed for survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth (I am not sure if that is scientific, but I like it!).