When was the last time you had a hug? If you’re a parent, you’ve probably snuggled up to your munchkin at some point in time in the last week, day or even hour. If you’re not, however, you may be so far from the last time you had physical contact with another human that your recollection of the event is but a foggy memory.
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Though it’s probably not a longing that keeps you up at night, you do need physical contact. The seemingly simple hug is actually quite powerful. If you’ve found yourself trading physical embraces for the occasional digital connection, one way to get in the quality hug-time that you require is to engage in hug therapy.
Though not yet a mainstream treatment, hug therapy is growing in popularity. Regardless of where you live, you can likely find at least one hug therapy practitioner in your area.
Though the specifics of the session vary from hug therapist to hug therapist, the typical session includes non-sexual touching for a period of one or two hours. From the squeezing, spooning and caressing, clients can reap an array of benefits.
Sense Of Safety Bolstering
The human body is programmed to draw feelings of safety and security from physical embrace. It’s a response that dates back to the caveman days and is as natural as the fight-or-flight response. Not only does being hugged from time to time help quiet feelings of panic, it can help you connect to the individual who is hugging you and to others you encounter after a hug session.
Positive Hormone Producing
When you engage in period of hugging, whether prolonged or short, your body starts producing hormones that have a positive effect on your overall physical and mental health.
During and immediately after a hug, your body ramps up the production of oxytocin, the hormone that helps calm negative feelings of loneliness and anger. At the same time, Serotonin levels increase, which promotes an overall positive mood and feelings of happiness.
Hugging also leads to the decline of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone, among other things, promotes weight gain, so having less of it is definitely a benefit, particularly for people seeking to slim down.
Immune System Building
Though hugging with someone who has the sniffles will likely get you sick, engaging in an embrace with someone in good health could actually improve your immune system.
According to yoga instructor Marcus Julian Felicetti, the pressure placed on the sternum during a strong hug activates the Solar Plexus Chakra, which, in turn, stimulates the thymus gland and encourages the production of white blood cells. With this army of new white blood cells fighting to keep you well, you may be less likely to fall victim to the most recent bug that’s going around.
When you were a baby, your mom’s tender touch did more than calm you; it also taught you that people who love you connect with you physically. This lesson, learned in the hours and days after birth, sticks with you, and as an adult, hugging provides the same feelings of being wanted, making you feel better about yourself.
The resulting positive self-esteem can affect your overall self-image in a positive manner.
Circulatory System Improving
Hugs do more than just warm your heart in a metaphorical sense. Engaging in regular hugging sessions results in a reduction in heart rate and helps improve the overall health of the heart muscle. Additionally, people who hugged often had better overall blood pressure readings.
In a study, people who hugged regularly experienced fewer periods of elevated blood pressure, even when presented with high-stress situations. As a final circulatory benefit, regular hugging also promotes improved circulation in the soft tissues, which can help soothe aches and pains.