COULD A HUG REALLY PROTECT YOUR HEALTH?
Ok, some of you will know, hugs are up there as one of my favourite things to give and receive! My incredibly accommodating husband has signed up for a life long hug-a-thon, being the closest human to me most days. It’s my favourite human expression alongside untamed laughter. My love of the hug began in my tiny-tot days. My gorgeous Granny-Heather was the first to acknowledge this love of mine and aged 3 granted me my most favourite nickname to date – “HUG-A-BUG!” She would tell me in my older years, how much love was enveloped into each hug I gave even though my arms weren’t long enough to wrap around her, they were just splayed out in a hugging gesture as I approached her, hopeful her grown-up arms would scoop me up and help with the hugging part.
One of the fondest memories Granny-Heather and I shared was our greetings at the Airport, running to each other – arms wide – she would tell me it was the highlight of her travels. We shared a love of hugs, and I decided this was our secret magical bond. I love this story, mostly because in my tiny toddler world I had found a way to show Granny-Heather how much she was loved and how this simple act filled me with as much joy then as it does now. When I started my study of Neuroscience at University aged 19, I started to dig into these stand-out feelings in my life thus far, that I couldn’t fully explain but knew there was some “magic” behind them. I could sense a reaction happening between my body and my emotions/mind from a young age… and I was right! This “magic” was not my imagination.
I went on to break down the chemistry behind “The Hug” and learned that when we give someone a hug, our brains experience a release of certain chemicals that play a role in regulating our emotions and promoting a sense of well-being. These chemicals include:
- Oxytocin: Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” or the “cuddle hormone.” It is released in the brain when we hug someone, and it promotes feelings of trust, bonding, and affection. Oxytocin also reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, which can contribute to a sense of relaxation and calmness.
- Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating mood and emotions. When we hug someone, the release of serotonin can help elevate our mood, reduce feelings of sadness, and improve our overall sense of well-being.
- Dopamine: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward. When we hug someone, the release of dopamine in the brain can help us feel more relaxed, happy, and satisfied.
- Endorphins: Endorphins are natural painkillers that are produced by the brain. When we hug someone, the release of endorphins can help reduce feelings of pain and discomfort, and promote a sense of calmness and relaxation.
In addition to these chemicals, hugging also has physical effects on our bodies. For example, when we hug someone, our heart rate and blood pressure can both decrease, which can help us feel more relaxed and calm. Additionally, hugging can stimulate the production of growth hormone, which helps regulate the metabolism, promotes tissue repair, and supports the growth and maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Overall, hugging is a simple yet powerful way to promote well-being and regulate our emotions, and the release of various chemicals in the brain is an important part of that process. So my prescription for you today my friends is to HUG MORE, and thus create your own home-brewed magic!