I really miss my Dad’s hugs. Since he is gone, I am definitely not receiving enough affection, also, because my soon-to-end distance relationship sucks and makes me feel even more lonely. For this reason, whenever I have the opportunity, I give my friends a hug to steal some of their good energy for myself.
I promised you lots of anti depression tips, so here is one: hug and get hugged. Hugging definitely alleviates depression symptoms and there is a scientific explanation for it.
The need for gentle physical contact starts the day we are born. Or maybe even before, but it is on the birth day when one becomes an individual, detached from mother’s body. Loving touch of a caretaker is crucial to child development. We are pre-programmed for hugging, and this doesn’t only concern humans, but also most mammals. Children deprived of human contact because of life circumstances such as foster care or hospitalization in early age show developmental delay and a lower level of oxytocin, and a much higher level of cortisol, comparing to their parent-raised peers.
Hugging & Hormones
Hugging is a natural stress reliever. It decreases blood pressure and stress hormone levels, while boosting the level of oxytocin.
The neurotransmitter oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus that plays a role in childbirth. The chemical is also active in adults and has been linked to social bonding. “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” says DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein. “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.” Thus, a few hugs a day will help you combat loneliness.
Low dopamine level can lead to serious depression and other mental illness. Low self-esteem, Procrastination, and lack of enthusiasm have connection to low levels of dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone.
Serotonin is secreted when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when there is not enough serotonin. Hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels. These hormones make you feel pleasure, alleviate pain and sadness. They also decrease the chances of getting heart diseases and help lose weight.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and lowblood-glucose concentration. It increases blood sugar to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Prolonged high cortisol level in blood is one of the depression causes.
What does a hug mean?
Hugs are a form of nonverbal communication and energy exchange. A hug gives comfort, support, and consolation in situations where words don’t suffice. By hugging one shows empathy and understanding. A hug also expresses love, familiarity, friendship, affection, sympathy or brotherhood. This, however, depends on culture, relationship, and context in which it is given. The upbringing of the hug-receiver also matters, so you should respect the boundaries. Some people just don’t feel comfortable when somebody invades their personal space.
The Art of Hugging is a beautiful and funny book written with love, which makes me feel better each time I am depressed. It reminds me how a simple gesture of kindness can boost your mood, profuse positive feelings, and change your mindset. It’s written by a couple who are both: artists, editors, performative artists, who are successful in all the diversity of their interests. All this makes it a perfect gift for a friend who is a little down or suffers from depression. You can grab it here. Don’t forget to give your friend a big hug along with the book!
How many hugs a day is enough?
According to the neuroeconomist Paul Zak, also known as “Dr. Love,” we need at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoy better relationships. Psychotherapist Virginia Satir also claims that: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Are you getting all the hugs you need? Probably not.
The best thing about hugging is that it is reciprocal. When you give one, you receive one simultaneously. So start hugging to enjoy the healing power of hug. Hug your children, partner, siblings and parents. Hug your friends. Maybe they also need it but are ashamed of asking.
But, what if there is nobody to hug?
Embrace pets to alleviate fear and anxiety. Hug trees to absorb their vital energy. There are also support groups and free hug events to get the right amount of hugs, or you can join the Free hug Movement and offer hugs in the street. You can also give a hug yourself, and I strongly advise to do so.
All this is free and it always will be. Now, go and get your hugs!