Facts About Hugging
Humans have been embracing each other since Prehistoric times for warmth. In 2007, archaeologists found a pair of human skeletons that were holding each other in an embrace, in a 6000-year-old Neolithic tomb in Italy. They are known as the ‘Lovers of Valdaro.’
It’s generally thought that the word ‘hug’ is derived from the Scandinavian ‘hugga’, meaning ‘to comfort’ from approximately 450 years ago.
Embracing and handshakes were used by warriors to show their enemies that they weren’t going to kill them because they had no weapons in their hands or on their bodies.
Health Benefits of physical contact
Studies have shown that students who receive a supportive touch from teachers are twice as likely to raise their hands in class. Patients who received a sympathetic touch by their doctors believed their appointments lasted longer than they did.
In sport, the team players who make physical contact with each other perform better than those who don’t.
A full-body hug can lower feelings of loneliness and increase your self-esteem.
Positive effects on your body include:-
- Lowering your blood pressure. When someone touches you, pressure receptors on your skin; called ‘Pacinian Corpuscles,’ are activated. These receptors send signals to the vagus nerve of your brain; which amongst other functions, lowers your blood pressure.
- Strengthening your immune system. In 2014, a study by Cohen et al of over 400 participants, revealed that the participants that had a greater support system were less likely to become ill. Even if they did get ill, they experience less severe symptoms than those with little or no support system.
- Relieving your pain. Cuddling releases a hormone known as, ‘oxytocin’ which helps to lower your pain levels and reduce stress. In; what I think is a slightly sadistic experiment; focusing on the effects of giving physical comfort, 20 couples were involved in MRI scans. The women underwent a scan while their partners received electric shocks. During these shocks, the women held the arms of their partners. Their scans showed decreased activity in the areas of the brain that is associated with stress and increased activity in the parts of the brain associated with the rewards of maternal behaviour. They didn’t scan the men’s brains! Am I giving you ideas, ladies….?
- Boosting your heart health. In a study in 2003, Grewen et al split 200 couples into 2 groups watching a romantic video. In 1 group the couples held hands for 10 minutes and then embraced for 20 seconds. The other group rested quietly with no physical contact. Later, they had to do some public speaking. Overall, the group who had physical contact had lower blood pressure and heart rates than the group who didn’t.
So, it’s lovely and even healthy to hug family and friends but be mindful of the pandemic.
I’m an affectionate person and cuddle my partner and cats every day. Sometimes, my cats don’t appreciate it! I can understand when the research shows that hugging has health benefits, because I always feel better after being hugged or giving one.
Do you like giving or receiving hugs? Or do you not hug at all?
Sources: radford.edu, kulraj.org, pennlive.com, psychologytoday.com, uselessdaily.com, healthline.com, health.clevelandclinic.org