How longer squeezes can make you happier and healthier

Whether you’re experiencing a flurry of excitement or a bout of depression, you’re probably going to express your emotions with a hug. It however turns out that the benefits of hugging go far beyond that warm, fuzzy feeling with recent studies revealing that the health impact associated with affective touch extends to physical, mental and even social health.

So what biochemical reaction takes place when you enfold someone in your arms or touch? Well, large quantities of a hormone by the name Oxytocin are released from a pea-sized structure at the base of the brain. This particular hormone is responsible for activating feelings of happiness and has been proven to cause a reduction in blood pressure as well as suppress the levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine. The ‘cuddle hormone’ as it’s commonly referred to, is also known to alleviate depression and anxiety.

Yet another reason to embrace hugging is the social benefits one gains to reap. Research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reveals that people that hug form stronger bonds and without this hormone it can be harder to pick up on social clues. Growing up in a home that does not encourage hugging can also decrease people’s ability to be intimate or compassionate.

All the same, not just any hug will do. A prolonged 20 second embrace is highly recommended with American author and family therapist Virginia Satir asserting, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” It is based on this need for social connectivity and human contact that organizations like Free Hugs Campaign have begun ‘hugathons’ in a bid to spread love, light and hope to strangers by giving free hugs.

So intense is the need to embrace, that a new profession has come to play: professional cuddling! That’s right; there are now hundreds of certified cuddlers that platonically snuggle with strangers for a fee. For about $60 an hour, you get one snuggle at a time with the services readily available in over 30 US states. While this session comes at quite the price, many are reaping from the benefits of hug therapy as a result.

So the next time you get a chance to give and receive a hug, you may want to try squeezing in a longer squeeze.


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