Hugs: The Ultimate Mind-Body Medicine
Most people instinctively know that hugging and touching are beneficial for emotional well-being. But researchers who have investigated the power of the human touch have found wide-ranging positive effects that encompass many aspects of health.
Touch can come in different forms, such as hugs, gentle squeezes, massages, handholding or petting a dog. Regardless of the form, it is excellent medicine.
Ten Seconds of Hugging Per Day Has Multiple Effects
New research shows regular embracing can alleviate stress, depression and fatigue as well as lower the risk of heart disease and strengthen immunity. A mere 10-second hug per day can reduce blood pressure and raise the levels of feel-good chemicals like oxytocin. Research from the University of North Carolina finds that women who get more hugs from their partners have lower blood pressure and heart rates in addition to higher levels of oxytocin.
Studies reveal oxytocin can improve social skills, fight stress and foster trust. The skin contains a network of tiny structures called Pacinian corpuscles that sense touch and transmit messages to the brain through the vagus nerve. This nerve is connected to oxytocin receptors and a number of organs, including the heart. One theory on the multiple benefits of touch is that when the vagus nerve is stimulated, it causes oxytocin to be released, which in turn produces the broad spectrum of health effects.
Hugs don’t have to come from significant others. Embraces from anyone close will also work. In a study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, researchers tested stress levels among participants who gave a presentation. Those who received hugs from their mothers afterward had a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol an hour after their presentation ended.
Holding Hands Reduces Stress
The act of holding hands with your spouse is extremely calming, according to James Coan, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. He conducted a test that involved administering MRIs to 16 married women who were told they might receive a mild shock. The resulting anxiety triggered a stress response in their brain that was clearly seen in the MRIs. However, when the women held hands with their husbands, the MRIs showed their stress quieted down considerably.
Snuggle With Your Pet
Research shows petting a dog, especially one you know and love, can lower blood pressure, boost immunity and reduce pain. Experts say cuddling with any furry pet can be just as relaxing.
Unwind With a Massage
Massages are deeply soothing, as they cause muscles to relax, heart rates to slow, blood pressure to reduce and levels of cortisol to fall. When cortisol drops and you feel more relaxed, the immune system is boosted. In a study comparing the immune function of people who received 45 minutes of massage and those who received 45 minutes of lighter touch, the massage group had fewer types of inflammation chemicals associated with autoimmune diseases along with more white blood cells, which are structures that fight infections.
So embrace hugging wholeheartedly and make it a regular practice. Next time your spouse, child, parent or friend walks by, grab them and give them a big bear hug. It will do you both good.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.