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7 benefits of a hug

Seven surprising benefits of a hug

With coronavirus restrictions now easing further from 17th May in England, Boris Johnson has announced that it is safe enough for people to hug one another again. With the intimate gesture being strongly discouraged for the past 14 months, Audley Villages have researched and revealed seven benefits we can experience by hugging a close friend or family member.

1. Boosts endorphins

When you give someone a hug, you release a hormone called oxytocin, which is associated with happiness. This in turn helps to reduce stress. Research has found that the stronger the bond you have with the person you’re hugging, the more oxytocin your body releases and the happier you will feel.

2. Boosts your immune system

This hormone, oxytocin, also increases the hormones that fight infection. Basically, that hormone gives your immune system a boost and makes you feel healthy.

3. Reduces pain

Just as it boosts your immune system and releases oxytocin, hugging can reduce pain. For example, what do you do when you have pain in your neck? You rub it or apply pressure. Even a small touch can release enough oxytocin to make you feel better. So imagine what a real heartfelt hug can do!

4. Reduces stress

The gesture of giving someone a hug shows that they are supporting you, and you them, therefore reducing any stress you are both feeling. In the moment of the hug you are concentrating on your bond with that person, and not the worries and pressures you’re feeling in your day-to-day life.

5. Lowers risk of heart disease

Yes indeed, oxytocin yet again! Feeling less stress and less anxiety can help lower blood pressure, and hence lower the risk of heart disease. Oxytocin can have a powerful, positive effect on free radicals and inflammation levels (known culprits of coronary artery disease) so raising your oxytocin levels by an act of kindness, laughter or hugging a loved one can therefore help keep your heart healthy.

6. Improves communication

Have you ever had a difficult conversation and felt that it’s all made better by a hug? This is because a hug shows intimacy and allows you to say things that words couldn’t. It’s very comforting, with a shield being put around you in the form of another human, allowing you to feel safer and more open to share your feelings.

7. Strengthens relationships

Communication is obviously very important in relationships, but people often forget how meaningful and useful a touch can be. A hug can briefly break down communication barriers and deepen the bond with the person you are holding. During a hug you only focus on that other person and what you feel for them. When you feel ready, the time is now yours to reach out and hug your loved ones.

Kenny Mammarella-D'Cruz, psychologist and founder of MenSpeak said:

“A hug is worth a thousand words. A moment of connection with another person - whether you’ve known them forever, you’ve just met, they’re a loved one who has been sorely missed due to lockdown, or expressions of unrestricted natural touch that comes from grandchildren and the younger generations - is worth its weight in gold.”

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Read more wellbeing stories from Audley owners and staff n our retirement villages.