A few years ago a friend mentioned a saying to me that has seemed to stick with me:
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
More recently I thought I’d look a little further into this idea of hugging for good health. I have since discovered the saying was originally from Virginia Satir, who is often referred to as a family therapy pioneer. Her resume contains a fairly extensive list of honours and awards – she seemed to know what she was talking about!
So why are hugs so good for our health? Here are a few reasons why…
Stimulates the release of Oxytocin – the “love drug”
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system – the brain’s emotional centre. When we hug someone, Oxytocin is released into our blood stream via the pituitary gland. The benefits of this include a lowering of our heart rate and cortisol (the stress hormone that contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease). A reduce in cortisol levels can also increase your chances of a good nights sleep.
Stimulates the release of Dopamine
Dopamine is responsible for that “feel good” feeling and many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target dopamine sensors. Low dopamine levels play a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease as well as mood disorders such as depression.
Stimulates the release of Serotonin
High levels of serotonin in the body are associated with feeling significant or important. Conversely loneliness and depression appear when serotonin is deficient. A hug also releases serotonin into the blood stream, which can cause pleasure and reduce sadness.
Hugs can also increase your social connections and sense of belonging
So what’s your hug count for today?
Emma Thompson – Physiotherapist – Leap Health Rosny Park