Improve Your Life with the Benefits of Hugs

Love isn’t really all you need…but wouldn’t it be great if it was? The benefit of hugs to comfort and uplift is well known (and scientifically proven to boost mental health). They seem to work in ways words simply can’t (for the hugger and huggee).

Touch is powerful indeed…for more than just easing loneliness.

The Power of Human Touch…Defined

Roberta Lee with New York’s Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center explained, “Cortisol suppresses the immune response. Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune response.”1

The benefit of hugs, petting your cat or dog, kissing, hand holding, sex, and massage…simple touch makes a difference in your overall emotional (and physical) health.

In a study out of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, those who received a regular massage had a stronger immune system and lower inflammation throughout their bodies.2

Human touch has been scientifically proven to calm your hypothalamus, the region of your brain that processes pain, stress, and anxiety. It also affects your orbitofrontal cortex and the vagus nerve. Both are linked to sensations of reward and compassion.

As touch lowers damaging chemicals such as cortisol, it raises oxytocin and that makes you feel amazing. The University of North Carolina found that oxytocin produced through hugging has a bonding effect that inspires feelings of safety and trust, which lower overall stress and even blood pressure.

Researchers stated, “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 keeps you healthy and disease free.”3

According to marriage and family therapist, David Klow, “Most people want to feel understood. Non-verbal communication can be very powerful. It allows us to feel known by your partner in ways that words can’t convey.”

Hugs, hand holding, and handshakes from close friends and family have the highest benefits but they seem to work among co-workers, audience members, and even co-volunteers. It aids in establishing a stronger team dynamic and helps to sustain cooperation among peers.4

For decades, scientists have known that couples live longer than those who are single, that pet owners get better faster after surgery or trauma than those who have no pets, and that group interaction helps to overcome addiction. 

Do you touch when you talk? If you live in the United States, chances are slim. The best country in the world for conversational touching is France. They touch more than 100 times an hour during conversations while in those of us in the U.S. tend to touch only twice.

How you feel physically and emotionally comes down to touch, connection, and love.

9 Hug Benefits You Need in Your Life

  • Improves the health of your heart 
  • Lowers your risk of depression
  • Raises feelings of self-esteem and self-worth
  • Decreases battle anger, violence, and irritability
  • Fights feelings of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness already present
  • Boosts your energy levels naturally
  • Raises the effectiveness of your immune system to fight infection and sickness5
  • Combats daily stress or feelings of fear
  • Strengthens personal relationships in your life

Humans Need Touch…No, Really

Children develop better and faster with the benefit of hugs. When lacking personal touch, the growth and cognition of babies and small children develop more slowly. They also have more risk of infections, illness, higher levels of stress, and social disorders that include bouts of violence. This is even more evident in babies born prematurely. While the touch of the mother and other family provokes a higher response, even medical caregivers can make a difference.

In France, researchers found that teachers who pat children on the back inspire higher classroom engagement and librarians who touch hands when someone checks out a book are more likely to see them return in the future and have a more positive connection to reading.

Clinical social worker and psychotherapist, Sharon K. Farber, sums it up. “Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction, and increasingly, many people are seeking out their own professional touchers and body arts teachers – chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and martial arts instructors. Some even wait in physicians’ offices for a physical examination for ailments with no organic cause – they wait to be touched.”6

The benefit of hugs (kisses, hand holding, and so much more) is vital to your health. So much so that it is now possible to hire professional huggers or join what’s known as (non-sexual) “cuddle parties” to engage in human touch.

A bit too far for most but…the science is strong. Hug often and get hugs whenever you can. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.


1CNN: Touching makes you healthier 
2 Cedars-Sinai: Adults Demonstrate Modified Immune Response After Receiving Massage, Cedars-Sinai Researchers Show 
3 Psychology Today: Why We All Need to Touch and Be Touched 
4 Greater Good Medicine – UC Berkeley: Hands On Research: The Science of Touch 
5 Mercola: Could a Hug a Day Keep Infection Away? 
6Psych Central: The Surprising Psychological Value of Human Touch

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