The Psychology of Hugs

The Psychology of Hugs

The Psychology of Hugs


Most of us love getting hugs especially bear hugs from our loved ones. But, have you ever given a thought as to what makes them so special and heartwarming? A consensual hug can turn out to be a special way of greeting a loved one or even a sign of friendship, love, and care. The poetic beauty attached to hugs can be directly associated with the psychological need for physical touch yearned by human beings.

Why does it Feel Good?

Every consensual and warm hug that we receive from other people feels extra special. But why is this so? Is it in any way associated with the elements of body chemistry? The answer is an obvious “yes.” Oxytocin, love is one of the pivotal hormones that get released at the time of a hug and this activates the pleasure centres of our brain. The activation of these centres, henceforth, helps the person to experience love, care, and safety. Hugs, subsequently reduce the production and release of cortisol, which is the stress hormone released by the adrenal glands of an individual.

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These hormones act in the face of any stressful stimulus in one’s daily environment and invoke a fight or flight response in one’s physiology. Science suggests that hugs also help us identify probable safe havens in people. This can be counted as an evolutionary and adaptive function of hugs. Amidst the chaotic and stressful day-to-day life that individuals deal with, hugs can act as a therapy, and turn out to be a force of instant healing from the daily pressures they may be trapped in.

What if we Don’t Get Enough Hugs?

Being a modulator that tempers the effects of stressful stimuli that we encounter in our lives, lack of hugs, or for that matter, of physical human touch, can adversely affect our mental and emotional health. Research suggests that a lack of touch can be correlated with greater levels of anxiety present in people. It can further deprive our coping skills and may obstruct us from coping effectively with a situation of stress, pressure or even a loss. The lack of hugs and human touch can lead us to experience a physical need for being touched which can be termed as skin hunger or touch hunger. Inadequate physical touch may cause the person to fall prey to relationship issues when it comes to dealing with people in their lives.

A child may experience several innate problems with their personality and behaviours if they appear to grow up without hugs in a setting or with caregivers who do not recognize the need for physical contact. They may not be able to identify and acknowledge their own emotions and those of others and may lack empathy. There are high chance that these children may develop trust issues as hugs reinforce trust in an individual and may also find themselves with reduced self-esteem in their future lives. The absence of hugs can also cause alexithymia symptoms, which are characterized as difficulties identifying and expressing one’s feelings.

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What is Better with Hugs?
  1. Better sleep: Hugs, as mentioned earlier increase and decrease the levels of oxytocin and cortisol hormones in our body respectively. This instantly lowers anxiety levels in our body system by deactivating the parts of the brain that are still prepared to trigger a fight-or-flight reaction. Even though neither of these hormones is directly related to the improvement of our sleep, the very decrement in the anxiety levels in our body promises better sleep.
  2. Better well-being: The production and release of oxytocin activate the pleasure areas in one’s brain, hence improving the levels of mental and emotional well-being in individuals and promising better levels of pleasure as well.
  3. Better compassion and self-esteem: A study proved that the working of these hormones also may induce improved feelings of compassion for oneself and towards others. Additionally, they might raise the amount of self-worth that a person cultivates during one’s upbringing.
  4. Better performances: Adequate physical touch, especially hugs can play a pivotal role in improving the physical performances one may showcase especially in fields of sports. Recent research by the NBA concluded that teams that recorded adequate amounts of hugs performed better in their games than other teams that did not have good hug rates.
  5. Better heart health-as unlikely as it may seem to be, hugs do play a major role in rendering better heart health. It helps in regulating blood pressure levels in an individual. Researchers have concluded that a good 20-second hug can help significantly lower people’s blood pressure, which could be translated to better levels of stress tolerance, thus this can aid them in maintaining better cardiovascular health.

Hugs, undoubtedly, put you in a much; healthier state to live. They promise the betterment of one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. It is mostly all good news when the conversation of hugs comes up.

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