The benefits of hugging

There are many ways that you and your partner can demonstrate your love, appreciation and understanding for one another in a relationship – but did you know that there’s a lot more science in a simple hug than you might think?

We spoke to Hugologist, Jean Smith, to find out why regular cuddles can not only be beneficial to your relationship, but even improve your health.

Hugging strengthens your relationship

When you think about it logically, choosing to press your body against someone else and wrap your arms around them is a little odd, yet it makes us feel closer to our partners – why?

The close proximity experienced while hugging “encourages important pair bonding influences to take place, such as scent and mirroring”.

If you want to get the most out of your cuddles, Jean suggests that hugs are most effective when held for 20 seconds.

Hugging makes you happy

You don’t need a scientist to tell you that chocolate can significantly improve a bad mood, but did you know that hugging can have the same effect? Good news for the waistband.

“Hugs, like chocolate, promote feelings of happiness, which translates into oxytocin being released in our brain” says Jean.

When oxytocin is released into the brain you experience a feeling of contentment, a reduction in anxiety and generally feel calmer (Meyer & Dixie, 2007).

The oxytocin hormone is also present when you’re intimate with your partner and when you give birth – this is nature’s way of bonding you with your partner or newborn.

Hugging improves your health

Healthy eating and regular exercise are the most commonly cited ways to improve your health, but according to research by the University of North Carolina, hugging can also help.

Their study they found that women who hugged their partner daily had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t. As a result, these women were less likely to develop to heart disease.

And it seems that hugging may also have spiritual benefits too. In November 2011, thousands queued at London’s Alexandra Palace for a hug from Indian spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi.

Known as the ‘Hugging Saint’ she promised to meet and hug every person that queued to meet her, and her hugs have been enjoyed by celebrities such as Russell Brand, Sharon Stone and Susan Sarandon.

Bonding with a partner or friend is about showing them that they’re appreciated, and about understanding what makes them feel good. That doesn’t take a lot to achieve – a simple hug could work wonders for your relationship!

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