Amazing Benefits of Strangely Healthy Activity
Almost everyone likes to be hugged. No surprise there. But did you know that touching and hugging can be a huge benefit to your health? We know when it’s done with the right person it can be a fun way to connect while also boosting your emotional health. But the latest research shows that hugging also revs up your physical health. Truth is, it’s likely the most fun way to stay healthy ever proven by science.
I’ll show you how a daily 10-second hug can lead not only to big smiles, but also big improvements in your health. I’ve actually made reference to this in passing in a previous article, but the evidence just keeps building up in support of hugs. Not only can they boost heart health, recent research shows they improve immunity as well. Read on for more reasons why hugging should be part of your daily health routine.
More Hugging Means Better Health
Studies show that people in conflict with others are more likely to have impaired immune systems. And they’re more likely to catch viruses and colds. Yet when these people hug on a regular basis they are less likely to get sick.
A recent study at Carnegie Mellon University reinforces this. Researchers looked to see whether hugging would protect against infections. What they discovered surprised everyone connected with the study. They found that people who hug daily were more likely to enjoy loads of other health benefits in addition to infection protection. The exact opposite was true for non-huggers.
The Benefits of a 10-Second Hug
Regular hugging is a great way to help you live a healthier life. It turns out that just a 10-second hug each day leads to biochemical reactions in the body that actually improve your health. In fact, hugging increases a hormone called oxytocin, also called the “love hormone.” I’ve mentioned this important hormone to you before, and today I’ve got even more good news to share with you about it.
Here are some of the health benefits you can receive from a 10-second hug:
- Lowers risk of heart attacks and heart disease
- Reduces stress hormone levels
- Boosts immune system health
- Reduces depression
- Helps fight infections
- Even reduces the incidence of common colds
Studies have shown that the more oxytocin released by your pituitary gland, the better you are able to handle stress. Oxytocin decreases cortisol and other stress hormones, while lowering your blood pressure.
Dr. Paul Zak, a neuroscientist, suggests that oxytocin likely plays a part in why pet owners heal faster from illness than non-pet owners – and why married people live longer than single people.
Even Basic Touching is Healthful
Just touching each other can benefit our health. When premature babies are held by their mothers they are more resilient to stress, sleep better and have better cognitive skills. This effect lasts even ten years after birth.
When newborns get baby massages by nurses, the touching benefits them even though it’s from a stranger. They gain weight faster and leave the hospital sooner, among other benefits.
In fact, infants who get minimal touching consistently suffer developmental delays. Not only that, but infants who are not touched and held get skyrocketing rates of serious illnesses and infections.
Even monkeys and other apes spend about 20 percent of the day grooming. Do they know something we don’t? The fact is that we primates seem to be born with a need to touch each other.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t touch often enough. Studies on touching have shown that French people touch each other at least 100 times per hour while they’re talking. That number drops to 2 in the US, and zero in the UK.
Hugging is Not Our Only Option
A big hug boosts your immune and nervous systems while reducing feelings of tension, loneliness and fear. It also builds self-esteem and feelings of approval. That’s quite a list of benefits from a simple hug. But hugging is only one way to enjoy the magic of touch. For example, if you have a pet you can spend a few minutes each day petting it. This releases oxytocin and other “happy hormones”.
Here are some non-hugging ways of enjoying the benefits of touch:
- Giving or receiving a backrub
- Nurturing others
- Holding hands and kissing
- Walking arm in arm with a friend, partner, or spouse
- Touching others during conversation
Besides hugging and touching, positive emotions like can contribute to improved immune function. Emotions like being lively, calm, and happy work best. One recent study showed that when happy, upbeat people are exposed to viruses such as the flu and common colds they are less apt to get sick. If they do get sick, they show fewer symptoms. This means that not only is hugging good for your health, so is trying to have a positive outlook on life.
Connecting to others, especially through hugging and physical touching, protects us from stress-induced sickness. Recent studies add to a growing body of evidence that shows touching is good not only for our mental health, but also our physical health. And when physical touching is linked to a happy, positive outlook on life, good health seems almost guaranteed.
Besides the physical benefits, hugging also boosts our self-esteem. From the time we were infants the touching we hopefully received from our family told us we were special and loved. These feelings of self-worth from our infancy are still rooted in our nervous system. The hugs we got from parents and family remain stamped at a deep cellular level. Hugs and other forms of touching remind us of that on a subconscious, physical level. In short, hugs connect us to our capacity for self-love. Far from being just a nice idea, science is proving the very real benefits of affectionate and caring touch.