Monthly Columns

The Healing Embrace: Four Wonderful Reasons to Hug

Little feels more natural than embracing a partner or friend to show affection, offer reassurance, and simply enjoy the close presence of their spirit. Likewise, closeness with our children, who rely on our physical touch to thrive and be comforted, is second nature.

This is because these embraces are healing to our bodies and minds. They feel so good not only because we deeply love and care for those we hold close, but because our bodies have a positive physiological and psychological response to this gentle physical affection.

Here are four ways embraces benefit everyone involved:

    • An embrace with your partner gets positive brain chemicals flowing: At the end of a stressful day, there’s an undeniable feeling of comfort found waiting in the arms of the person you love. That hug triggers the release of oxytocin, the love hormone, as well as serotonin, which is associated with a reduction in mental illnesses like depression. [1]
    • Hugs help to ease depression and anxiety: The aforementioned serotonin and oxytocin release that takes place during a hug can help to ward off impactful illnesses like depression and anxiety for both adults and children. [2]
    • Getting close boosts your microbiome: While we generally imagine that the best way to resist illness is to steer clear of others, contact with others through hugs is an important way that we build our microbiome. This is a collection of neutral and good microorganisms that aid digestion and improve disease resistance. [3]
    • Embraces can lower blood pressure: High blood pressure is a predictor of many serious health conditions, but the oxytocin released during hugs can help to keep those important numbers low. [4]

This handy visualization from We The Parents reveals even more reasons to appreciate the power of human closeness.