Have you ever wondered why humans hug each other? Who was the first person to decide that this is a way of showing love and affection? Is it an instinct we are simply born with? But with philosophical questions aside, it is definitely understood by just about every person that hugging is a great way of communicating in a way that words simply cannot. Recently, scientists have decided to investigate the effects of hugging on the human body and there have been remarkable results. The science behind these results is incredibly complex involving neurobiology, endocrinology, and psychology to name just a few of the sciences. The research is in its early days, but the results are quite profound and promising. Here are some of the health (physical and mental) benefits that hugging provides.
Hugs help to reduce anxiety and stress
Some studies have shown that in cases where the participants were exposed to stress like an electric shock, those who received hugs from their partners showed a reduced response to the stress and recovered more quickly. It’s also well proven that women who have their partners present and holding them during labor do significantly better and experience fewer complications. The science behind it is that this form of physical contact releases a variety of hormones like serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. All of these are related to counter stress responses.
Hugs help to improve your immune system
Hugging also reduces levels of the hormone cortisol which is often released in highly stressful situations. One of the effects of cortisol in the human body is to suppress the immune system. So by reducing levels of this hormone the immune system is stimulated and so it functions more optimally. This can help to fight off those nasty infections and improve any sort of wound healing.
Hugs can reduce pain
Pain is related both to hormones and various parts of the brain. In some very complex pathways, the hormonal and neural effects of hugging have been shown to significantly reduce pain, especially that of the chronic variety. Pain has been shown to have both a physical and an emotional element and hugging plays a part in reducing each of these.
Hugs are literally good for your heart
One of the wonderful effects of hugging is a reduction in blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for the development of certain heart diseases. So with the daily effect of reducing blood pressure provided by loving embraces, you are actually protecting your heart from damage and disease.
They are important for emotional and social connections
One of the most puzzling features of humans is our ability to communicate in non-verbal ways. These are some of the most difficult things to explain and to study because we understand each other in a way that may not necessarily be logical. Hugging can be a way of showing support that says everything the person needs to hear without actually having to say anything. And unlike our words, it is very difficult to misinterpret a hug.
They improve physical performance
If you are a top athlete or just someone who regularly likes to exercise, then you definitely need to make sure that you are giving and receiving plenty of hugs. This is because it improves physical performance through the various hormonal mechanisms mentioned above. And the best thing about it is that it is completely free and natural.