The Nine Superpowers of a Hug

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The past few years of limited physical contact have taken their toll as something essential has been missing. We celebrate, comfort, and show our affection with it. Yes, I’m speaking of a simple hug. The average length of a hug is three seconds. However, when a hug lasts at least 20 seconds, there is a therapeutic effect on the body and mind. Psychotherapist Virginia Satir stated, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” There is a great deal of scientific evidence related to the importance of hugs and physical contact. Here are nine of their superpowers:

1. Stimulates Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that affects the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

2. Cultivates Patience
A hug is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation and acknowledgement of another person. The world is a busy, hustling-bustling place. By slowing down and taking a moment to offer sincere hugs throughout the day, we’re benefiting ourselves, others, and cultivating better patience within ourselves.

3. Prevents Disease
Hugs have a direct response on the reduction of stress which prevents many diseases. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.

4. Stimulates Thymus Gland
Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.

5. Nonverbal Communication
Almost 70 percent of communication is nonverbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being.

6. Boosts Self-Esteem
Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. Tactile sense is all-important in infants. A baby recognizes its parents initially by touch. From the time we’re born, our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The association of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our mom and dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self-love.

7. Stimulates Dopamine
Low dopamine levels play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s, as well as mood disorders such as depression. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling and is also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target.

8. Stimulates Serotonin
Hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels. The released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness, and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, help fight excess weight, and prolong life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

9. Activates Parasympathetic System
Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch, and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance and suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system.

Make the new year a good one by using the superpower we all have. But don’t forget to ask permission first!