The Incredible Power of Hugs

Human connections may have been limited over the last year, but here is how hugs can be one of the most powerful forces in the world.

We Czechs or possibly even the Slavs are a society of extremely limited touch. More often than not when even a brother and sister meet after months, they shake hands. 

In contrast, this is about someone who is closely known to me. I can’t say it’s because of his cultural background. It’s just natural to him. 

If you were to meet him, you would perhaps not help being amused at how easily he hugs friends and family, many times leaving the men of the Czech Republic blushing and the women smiling warmly. 

He will be at a government office, a shop, just anywhere and he will quickly put people at ease with just a touch. The owner at the confectionery leaves her counter and comes out only to greet, get a bear hug and to hug him back. 

The staff over there once commented that he just fills up the place no sooner he walks in and wanted to know where he was from. 

His neighbour meets him like she’s meeting a long lost relative with a big hug and kiss and so do so many others.

Even at the town hall, the marriage registrar was hugging him just before the wedding. 


Being Comfortable

The one thing I have seen over time is that he appears to be entirely comfortable in his own skin and to have a ‘curative’ effect on many. 

All of this should be natural to all of us. There’s nothing new or unique about it. Centuries ago  Michelangelo said, “To touch can be to give life”.  

And don’t we see children touching each other quite easily? Grown-ups are often victims of their own creation.

Both for emotional and physical health the instinctive act of touch is vital. Those who are deprived of it feel disadvantaged, less happy and lonely. 

They also have less satisfaction in their relationships. 


Science of Hugs

Science has also gone on to prove that touch stimulates the release of oxytocin, the happiness and love hormone, the natural antidepressant serotonin and dopamine the neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure.

To touch and to feel is an important part of being. And a hug does communicate a million words.

Social distancing that has been thrust upon us by Covid-19 has had it’s negative impact on many. In most of the cities of the developed world more than 40% of adults are single and the national average of single adults  is usually around 33%. 

This group has had to bear the worst brunt of it because of the feeling of utter isolation resulting in depression, uncertain memory, fogginess and poor health. All due to lack of human contact and touch. 

Since time immemorial hugs were thought of as the universal medicine. It took scientists several studies during the new millennium, in fact over the last few years, to arrive at the conclusion that hugs absolutely contribute towards better health.


Hug To Survive?

Receiving just one hug a day can make a difference. This study conducted on a fairly large number of participants states: “There was a significant interaction between experiencing conflict and receiving a hug in predicting the next day’s negative effect. 

“When individuals reported conflict without a hug they had a higher negative effect on the next day than when they had also received a hug on the previous day.”

According to one specialist, a person needs, yes needs, four hugs a day just for survival, eight a day only for maintenance and 12 a day for growth. 

The Greater Good Science Center at Berkley, University of California is involved in scientific research dealing with social and emotional well being. 

Being Huggy: Getting four hugs a day can be key for survival

The centre brings into play, well being based on areas such as psychology, sociology, education, economics and neuroscience. 

They also publish a magazine that turns scientific research into stories, tips and tools for a happier life. One of their reports deals with the science of touch. 

The report goes fairly deep into the incredible effect that touch has on our day to day communication, bonding and health. 


Safety And Trust

The same report further goes on to say, “There are studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. 

Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone’.

Harvard Health also published a report on the power of touch and hugs. This report talks about the research conducted by the University of North Carolina about the deep impact that the frequency of affectionate physical contact such as holding hands and hugging has on human beings.

Some health centres around the world have now begun pioneering healing practices through touch to great success.

In many societies friends and acquaintances touch each other often. 

In Puerto Rico for example, a person receives the comfort of the human touch approximately 180 times a day. 

Even though some of the societies such as the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in Asia are those where humans don’t touch each other  often, this practice of less physical contact among humans is reducing thanks to the younger generation who are quite unrestricted sometimes even audacious about hugging and touching. 

So much more for good health and wellbeing.


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