‘The Rescuing Hug’ – This picture is of two week old twins who were in separate incubators, and one was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought agast the hospital rules and placed the babies together in one incubator. The healthier of the two threw her arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilised and her temperature rose to normal.
As someone whose nickname was ‘squeeze’ when I was a little girl, I can attest to loving a hug.
But recently, hugs have started to reveal their health effects.
Studies have shown that hugging has been shown to release oxytocin, sometimes referred to as “the love hormone”, in particularly high quantities following positive social interactions (like hugging). Oxytocin is key to boosting trust, sociability, and triggering maternal instincts while lessening anxiety and social fear.
However in 2010, hugging got an upgrade to a healing activity.
A study among couples found that increases in oxytocin following hugs correlated with faster wound healing. The hypothesis was that oxytocin reduces inflammation, thus allowing the wound to heal more quickly.
The study also showed that people who said they felt more social and spousal support and had more hugs and massages had higher oxytocin levels than those who reported less support and physical intimacy.
For man’s best friend, patting your pet also boost oxytocin (for canine and man alike!), and emailing loved ones has the same effect.
Providing doses of oxytocin has also been shown to result in more positive than negative behaviours during disagreements with your partner, confirming prior evidence that oxytocin affects couples’ positive and negative communication behaviours. Read more on the study here. It also can improve communication skills for autistic children if provided in doses.
So what are you waiting for?
Do as Hunter and Collectors say.
Go find a squeeze.
Hugs are the universal medicine.