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What Hugging May Do for Your Health

By Sandy Schroeder

Are you a hugger, or not? I know people who always hug, and others who only hug in some situations. Now researchers are weighing in on the health benefits of hugging supporting its “nonverbal communication.”

I have two different ongoing friend lunches with people that I worked with and have enjoyed knowing. One spans several years and the other is more recent, but they both begin and end with hugs. In both cases, I believe we are silently saying how much we care, and how good it is to be there.

WellAndGood.com spotlighted some of the things that hugs do for our emotional and physical well-being. See what you think.

How Hugs Protect Us from Stress-Related Illness

A research study from Carnegie Mellon linked hugs and the immune system. The researchers looked at infections that occur when a situation ramps up the stress hormone, cortisol. They found people who hugged more were less likely to get sick, and recovered faster. Other researchers found hugging actually decreases cortisol. A friend’s squeeze of a hand or hug of the shoulder can buffer the psychological wallop of stress.

Hugging Conveys Feelings Words Don’t Cover

If you have ever watched two people hug who are grieving, you know how this works. They may feel grief so intensely that words only scratch the surface. Psychologist say touch is one of the first senses to develop, and hugging feeds our sense of emotional well-being.

Hugging Helps Us Feel Safer

Researchers have found hugging reinforces oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the “cuddle hormone” that bonds us to others and makes us feel safe. When a mom hugs her kids she helps to build their feeling of safety and trust. For adults, increased levels of oxytocin are linked to improved heart health.

Hugging Calms Nervous Speakers

Public speaking can accelerate your pulse, but a quick hug from a loyal friend or family member might help you relax and calm down physically.

Hugging Can Ease Pain

Fahad Basheer, MD, said “Hugging relieves pain by releasing endorphins which block pain pathways, and by improving circulation which removes pain peptides.”

Hugging Fights Loneliness

Ironically, technology and social media connect us, but include no hugs. I believe it is important to step away from our computers and reach out to others with hugs and face-to-face words to avoid being isolated.

Hugging Sparks Physical Performance

The New York Times covered a study that found athletes performed better when they shared hugs. If you watch NBA basketball you know hugging is rampant. Sometimes it is funny to watch, but I think it works.

However you feel about hugging, these benefits may be worth evaluating. The more all of us relate in an honest one-on-one manner the better we may all be.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Schaumburg, Ill.

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