Hugging has multiple mental health benefits, studies suggest - GulfToday

Hugging has multiple mental health benefits, studies suggest

huging 1

Frequent hugs reduced people’s susceptibility to stress. TNS

Gulf Today Report

Did you know there was an entire day dedicated to hugging?

Jan.21 is celebrated as National Hugging Day annually. While it is more commonly observed in the US, countries around the world participate in the celebrations in their own way.

It is usually observed by making a conscious effort to embrace other people as part of a community drive (although this may not be ideal during a pandemic) or setting a record for the largest group hug.


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Embracing one another is a common greeting gesture in many cultures around the world. It is considered to be natural and instinctive human behaviour.

But the humble hug is more powerful than you think.

It is beneficial now more than ever as increasing numbers of people suffer from social isolation and poor mental health.

As well as being comforting and making you feel warm and fuzzy inside, hugging does a lot more. 

From curbing anxiety to fostering feelings of security, find below the multitude of benefits one can derive from hugging.

It reduces feelings of loneliness

Upon hugging, our brain releases oxytocin, the hormone which is associated with happiness and less stress.

It is also known as “the bonding molecule” or “cuddle hormone” given that it can elevate feelings of intimacy and helps stimulate social bonding between two people.

dog hug 2 Playing and hugging a dog, or simply making eye contact with one, can release the ‘happy hormone’ oxytocin in our brains. TNS

High levels of oxytocin can boost romantic attachment but they can also reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Cognitive neuroscience professor Brian Hare told The Washington Post that even hugging a dog can offer these benefits.

"Dogs have somehow hijacked this oxytocin bonding pathway, so that just by making eye contact, or (by) playing and hugging our dog, the oxytocin in both us and our dog goes up," he said.

It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

In addition to oxytocin, research shows that hugging someone releases dopamine in the brain, which is known as the pleasure hormone given that is often associated with promoting feelings of happiness.

People with mood disorders, such as depression, typically have low levels of dopamine, so hugging might help their cause.

It can help protect against stress

A study of 404 healthy adults conducted in 2014 by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that frequent hugs reduced people’s susceptibility to stress.

This could be achieved due to participants feeling greater levels of social support as a result of regular hugging, which the study’s authors also found protected them from infection.

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