A warm embrace. Rich chocolate. Painkillers. What do these three things have in common? They all produce a similar effect in your body. Did you know that research states that 20 seconds of hugging elicits chemicals in the body that are very connective? There are other ways to elicit these chemicals. But painkillers can be dangerous. Too much chocolate can cause problems. A warm embrace is rarely a bad thing. That’s why, of these three things, a simple hug may be the best method for staying healthy.
Maintaining strong relationships throughout one’s life is an if not the most important aspect of being. A family is a matrix of relationships which only benefits from frequent displays of affection, especially hugging. Studies show that regularly hugged individuals have reduced heart rates, lower blood pressure, increased nerve activity, and improved moods. Strong relationships have many benefits, but it is an overlooked fact that endearment in all of its forms can be as healthy for you as exercise, nutritious eating, and proper sleep.
Physical contact is rarely a problem early on in marriage; however, over time, a married couple can find themselves physically and emotionally drifting apart. There is no shame in seeking out therapy in such a situation. The goal of marriage therapy is to restore a married couple to the same feelings of love and togetherness which were experienced early on in the relationship. Those days may seem distant, but the key to their return can be simple. When was the last time you hugged your spouse? Therapists will acknowledge that couples that come in for counseling often have lost their connection in several areas. Therapy may enable you to rebuild those connections, to hug more, and to live a happier life.
As alluded to above, comparing a warm embrace to painkillers may sound extreme, but there is truth to this comparison. Oxytocin, a relaxing hormone, is present in some painkillers, and is also produced naturally in our bodies following a long hug. The increase of this hormone, in turn, reduces blood pressure.
Hugging, is a form of therapy which produces scientifically acknowledged effects. All relationships stand to benefit from hugging, whether it is a relationship of marriage, friendship, relation, or otherwise. Never turn away the opportunity to let someone know you care about them with a big hug. Your health depends on it!
Dr. Judith Needham-Penrose PhD, LMFT