Lest we ever think we’re islands in no need of anyone else to survive, it’s been scientifically proven that we become unrecognizable as human beings in the absence of human touch. It seems it’s absolutely vital to our survival—much as water, air, and food are—that we experience that physical connection with each other daily.
Here are some facts on the importance of touch: babies in orphanages have higher mortality rates, because even though they receive proper nutrition, they aren’t held and nuzzled as often as they should be, and they literally stop growing. It’s also been shown that NBA players who good-naturedly touch each other more on the court statistically win more games.
Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” The average hug lasts three seconds, but to really reap the benefits of the hug, 15 to 20 seconds is what releases that feel-good “love hormone” we all crave, oxytocin. That might prove awkward with a colleague at work, but it’s definitely doable as a practice of truly connecting and receiving the benefits of hugging with friends, relatives, your kids, and lovers/partners. So really hold that hug once you commit to leaning in, and if you need to, you can even explain why you’re still clinging, as you feel your hug partner start to pull away, adhering to societal norms of the quick embrace.
On the topic of the hugging home: I have a challenging 5-year-old, and when I’m at my wits’ end with her shenanigans, I’ve found that if I hug her (when she’s willing), it dissolves my frustration and redirects me into my heart center, which is where we truly connect and bypass the negative behaviors together. Sometimes, I just stand with my husband in the kitchen, and we wordlessly hug each other. My guess is it lasts a minute or two. It just feels like a safe harbor to us both in the midst of life’s busy-ness, bringing us into presence. And after a good disagreement with each other, once that’s marginally repaired, hugging seems to be what feels right to bridge that remaining gap, to again experience the closeness that reinforces “I’m sorry.” So hugging can be about consciously holding each other to cement what’s already there, as well as reconfirming the ties that bind, when there’s dysregulation. What a powerful form of communication that the body responds to, triggering natural feel-good emotions, as well as flooding amazing hormones into our system.
Here are a few more benefits to “hugging it out” with the optimal hug (hearts pressed together for 20 seconds):
– Builds trust and safety between two people
– Holding the hug lifts serotonin levels, elevating your mood
– Strengthens your immune system as it stimulates the thymus gland
– Relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body
– Balances the nervous system
– Significantly lowers blood pressure
– Brings us into the present moment by fully connecting with another
– Boosts our self-esteem because we feel loved
– Raises oxytocin in our system, which heals feelings of loneliness and anger
Basically, hugging is a well-researched, highly effective, and inexpensive way of healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress. Not to mention all the interpersonal advantages of communicating compassion, bonding, and reinforcing closeness and connection as we journey through life alongside each other. Making that conscious effort to slow moments of greeting and departing with a genuine hug rather than a perfunctory social salutation, as well as remembering to really embrace and hold those you care about, benefits both of you on many levels of well-being. So go on and hug your way through the new year and maximize all the hugs available to you at this opportune, huggably abundant time of year!