How Hugging Improves Health

Growing up, I always looked forward to visiting my grandma. She had a way of making me feel so loved. I could expect when I’d get there, she would have my favorite board games out, the Care Bear movies ready to be watched, and a jar of sugar cookies just waiting to be eaten; but the thing I most anxiously anticipated was her great, big bear hug. I would get to Grandma’s house, she would greet me at the door and then she would embrace me and make me feel like I was in a cocoon. Her arms would wrap around my back, my head would lay in the perfect spot between her chest and shoulder and she would hold me tight like she wanted to make sure I knew she had nothing else to do but love me all day long. Receiving hugs is one of the most underutilized, therapeutic treatments today. Unfortunately, the average person gets less than one hug per day. This is not healthy, but perhaps if we all strive to individually up our dosage of hugs, we can change our anti-touch society into a more caring and accepting culture.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, receiving or giving as few as four hugs per day can serve as an antidote for depression. Eight hugs a day may lead to achieving mental stability and twelve hugs per day could lead to real psychological growth. Can you remember the last time you gave or received a hug? Hugs are cost-free, fat-free and completely natural, so we should give them out all the time. Other research suggests that hugging reduces stress levels, encourages healthy sleep patterns, rejuvenates the spirit, supports the immune system, helps cure depression and invigorates the mind. Best of all, besides the occasional awkward hug, there are no real negative consequences.

On average, children and teenagers receive more hugs than the adult population, however the daily intake of hugs decreases with age. During the teenage years, hugging is still acceptable, but has declined since the elementary school days. Teenagers still give and receive hugs more often than adults, but it is during these vital growing years that the fear of rejection begins. Another reason hugging among youth begins to decline is because males feel that hugging may ruin current friendships with females or threaten their masculinity. For example, if a boy hugs a girl, she may start to think he is interested in a romantic way. On the other hand, if a boy were to hug another male, even in just a friendly way, adults might wonder about the boys’ sexuality. Even though such an embrace between straight male friends is known in the youth’s world as “bromance.” Adults seem to look down on such behavior because the males of their generation never embraced in such a way.

There are several reasons that adults do not hug as often as the younger generations do. Adults will hug young babies all day because everyone enjoys holding a baby and there is no chance of rejection. Adults would enjoy hugging their friends and coworkers more often, but there is a very real fear of hug denial. There are certain societal rules in place that limit the adult population’s affection towards youth and other adults. No one wants to be accused of sexual abuse. Teachers, for instance, are taught to not hug their students. In the work place, there are seminars and trainings on the forms of sexual harassment and so a sort of apprehension is established among employees that by offering a simple hug, one might be threatening another employee’s sense of personal space. Adults have pressure on them to meet the societal roles of perfect parent or employee, and the irony is that this pressure could be released if we submit ourselves to giving more hugs. So the remedy to avoiding the fear of hugging in the work place would be to hug family members and close friends.

Hugging is healthy. It is a great thing to do when you or someone you know is feeling upset, happy, angry, confused, or any emotion! Hugs can better your outlook on life and brighten the day of the recipient. They require little energy, but can produce a great amount. Treat hugs like any other physiological need and make sure to get in the suggested amount per day. Four a day is essential to our health, eight leads to emotional stability and twelve hugs leads to personal growth. Humans need air, shelter, food and hugs, so make sure you hug at least four times today.

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