Hug it Out

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A great big hug is better for you than you may know.

You know one of the things I find most admirable about my generation? We brought back platonic hugging. When I was little, it was all “hands to yourself” and “hugging is for wusses.” Now people hug all over the place. They hug their families, they hug their friends, they hug their pets, some people will even hug when they meet for the first time! And you know what? It’s a good thing. A great thing, even! Not just because the world could use a little more platonic love, but because hugging is demonstrably good for your health.

Research shows that a proper hug yields all sorts of benefits for your body. In your brain, a hug triggers the release of oxytocin, known in some circles as the “love chemical,” which calms your nervous system activity and magnifies positive emotions. At the same time as oxytocin is released, another brain chemical, cortisol, is lessened. Cortisol is released when you’re stressed and panicked as a sort of automatic fight or flight response. The feeling of closeness and safety in a hug is relaxing, dialing down the cortisol and keeping you calm. Lessened cortisol also helps you sleep better, by the by. With these relaxed states also comes a drop in blood pressure. If you suffer from a frequent tense state, a hug may be just what you need to calm down.

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Besides all the physical benefits, hugging promotes bonding and kinship. People who hug more have been known to form stronger, longer-lasting relationships, as well as create new relationships much more easily. A gentle embrace makes you feel loved, like you belong.

Due to current circumstances, it may be a little harder to get a proper hug from your loved ones, especially if they don’t live with you. You can still get a similar boost from hugging a heated pillow or a stuffed animal. It’s not exactly the same, of course, but think about how good that first hug will feel when you can finally see your loved ones in person again.