Why Hugs Feel Good

Hi, I'm Dr. Marie Starling.

At The Healing Center, we help people like you reach their full potential.

I specialize in adjunctive care for internal disorders, autoimmune conditions, IBS, thyroid symptoms, diabetes, and other complex health issues.

 

By: Mary Beth Gudewicz, CNTP, MNT

You wake up and realize your alarm didn’t go off, you have to get the kids to school while getting yourself to work and that is just the beginning of your day. You meet a friend for lunch and she takes one look at you and then gives you a long hug. All of a sudden you feel calm. Ever wonder why? It’s because there is a physiological response that is triggered in our body when we are hugging or being hugged. Science has been researching what a hug does to our body, how it responds and the mechanisms involved.

The mechanisms involved in the body are the hormone oxytocin and the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Oxytocin is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland and acts as a neuromodulator, a neuron that uses one or more neurotransmitters to regulate other neurons , in the brain. This hormone is secreted by the body during childbirth and in breastfeeding where it stimulates release of milk. This was thought to be its only function, but newer research has shown that it has many more effects such as improving social skills, fighting stress and encouraging trust. The skin contains Pacinian corpuscles, tiny egg-shaped pressure centers that can sense touch and are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the cranial nerves that connects the brain stem to the abdomen and is connected to various organs including the heart. It is also connected to oxytocin receptors. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information examined 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands/partners ending in hugs and found higher oxytocin levels and lower resting blood pressure in the subjects. Here at The Healing Center we talk about neurotransmitters and two of the neurotransmitters stimulated during a hug are dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is involved in the reward centers of the brain and where stimulating drugs target. Serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being and it is important to optimize levels of these neurotransmitters.

Hugs have many benefits aside from increasing your oxytocin and lowering your blood pressure. Additional benefits include:

• Helps relieve pain and raises our pain threshold
• Reduces social anxiety
• Lowers cortisol levels (benefitting the adrenals)
• Protects against inflammation and oxidative stress
• Increases social connection and sense of belonging
• Increases trust
• Feels good
• Dispels loneliness
• Builds self-esteem
• Slows aging
• Curbs appetite
• Eases tension
• Helps the immune system

The question becomes how long should you hug to enjoy these benefits? The ideal time is somewhere between 3 and 20 seconds with about 3 -12 hugs per day.

A great way to start the day is with a hug. Hugs relax you, give you confidence, and make you happier and healthier. They give you that Zen moment in your day, are free and are essential to our overall physical health and well-being. This goes for both the person giving the hug and the one receiving. So take a moment today and give someone a hug.


Sources

“Neuromodulator.” TheFreeDictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/neuromodulator>
Dobson, Roger. “Embrace Hugging: Daily Cuddles Can Combat Infections and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 10 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2230972/Embrace-hugging–good-you.html>.
KC, Light, Grewen KM, and Amico JA. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Dec. 2005. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15740822>.
“Hugs for Health – Healthsmart Exercise Physiology.” Healthsmart Exercise Physiology. N.p., 03 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <http://healthsmartep.com.au/hugs-for-health/>.

Related Posts

Announcement: Foundations of Health: Toxins and Pathogens in your Environment

Have you ever eaten sushi? 

Have you ever used Windex or other common cleaning products?

Have you ever traveled, or kissed someone?

If the answer is yes, you’ve been exposed to pathogens and other toxic chemicals.  Unfortunately, they are a widespread part of our modern lives.

Join us at The Healing Center for Dr. Marie Starling’s FREE Foundations of Health Series, “Toxins and Pathogens in your Environment,” to understand daily exposures that destroy your health, learn what they are, and how to avoid them.

Foundations of Health Lectures Series Dates and Times Announced!

As some of you may know, Dr. Marie Starling is putting on a FREE lecture series starting in April!  “Foundations of Health,” is a series designed to share Dr. Starling’s wealth of knowledge with anyone interested in long term health.  You don’t need to be a patient!  In fact, we are encouraging patient’s to bring any family or friends that don’t quite understand what it is you do when you’re at The Healing Center OR have interest in becoming a patient themselves.

How Emotions Affect Your Health: Drop the Emotional Baggage for Good

Every day each of us experiences an array of emotions that can range from pure illation to the worst kind of grief, sometimes making it feel like we’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Though most emotions leave the body after they are experienced, some will latch on, continuing to have a negative effect without us consciously knowing. Before we dive into why some emotions…

Your Underactive Thyroid and Weight Gain: Hypothyroidism Symptoms and Treatment

Are you tired all of the time despite getting a full night of sleep? Have you noticed sudden weight gain with a decrease in energy and motivation? Do you feel like you’re going through your day in a haze of brain fog…

Meet Suzanne! Our New Energy Worker!

Hi! I’m Suzanne Rainey. I like to call myself a spiritual guide. I work with clients who are on journeys to heal in deep ways, and who may be suffering from chronic issues, pain, anxiety, and other symptoms. I work with people to clear old patterns and restore balance…

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As we approach Thanksgiving, we would like to express our gratitude to our amazing patients who brighten our days with their smiles, commitment, and constantly improving health. The holidays can be challenging to engage in the festivities yet keep your body happy.  To make your Thanksgiving sweet, yet healthy, here is a tried and true yummy gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin dessert recipe for you from Detoxinista!

B12 – How Are You Getting This Essential Vitamin?

It is estimated that up to 40% of the U.S. population does not get enough B12 in their diet. Vitamins are substances that are essential in small amounts for the health, growth, reproduction, and maintenance of our body. In nature, these vitamins are never isolated – they are part of complex plant…

Trick or Treat? The Dangers of Sugar

The American Heart Association lists the following foods as containing high amounts of refined sugars. *carbonated soda *candy *cookies *fruit juice drinks *dairy desserts *ice cream *cereals *waffles *pies Watch your list of ingredients! Refined sugar will appear in product labels under other names, such as:

Epigenetics

Epigenetics is the study of changes to gene expression without changes to the DNA sequence. Epigenetic changes turn genes on or off and determine which protein is transcribed. Genetics are influenced greatly by environmental and lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep habits, stress levels…

All About Serotonin

Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter commonly connected to happiness and mood, but it also has numerous functions and roles in multiple body systems, such as in the gastrointestinal, immune, urinary, reproductive, cardiovascular, and hormonal systems. Functional medicine recognizes the other roles of serotonin and the importance of a healthy gut…