If you need any more incentive to dish out more hugs, Dee Marques has seven essential reasons to do so, all backed by science. In fact, the benefits of hugging are many – from stress reduction to an immune boost – so on National Hugging Day and beyond, reach out and make a difference!


“Sometimes, you just need a hug”. This may be one of the most repeated sayings of popular wisdom, but, in fact, science shows that there is a lot of truth to this sentence.

In our pursuit of happiness, we usually focus on things like personal development, health, and relationships with others. But sometimes, we place too much importance on these king of long-term goals, and we overlook the power of smaller but just as effective things – like the benefits of hugging and how this gesture contributes to our overall well-being.

Giving or receiving a hug can do wonders for our mood. When stress piles up and life gets tough, a hug can be way more helpful than any words of encouragement. And there’s a reason for that: as humans, we are wired to respond to touch and physical proximity, and there’s a strong connection between touch and emotion.

Hug yourself happy: science says it works

Hugging can have such a positive impact that there’s even a National Day for it. National Hugging Day has been celebrated on 21 January since the mid 1980s and its purpose is to encourage people to overcome feelings of embarrassment when showing their emotions, and to experience first hand the benefits of hugging. Because hugging is so important to our happiness and well-being, today we’ll explore the 7 main benefits of hugging and the role this gesture plays in improving our mental and physical health.


The 7 health benefits of hugging


1. Stress reduction

One of the most obvious benefits of hugging is stress reduction. You only need to think about how much of a relief you feel when you’re stressed and receive a genuine hug. The science confirms this too: a study found that participants were better able to cope with physical pain and stress related to unpleasant situations if they were arm in arm with their partners. Other research suggests hugs act as a buffer against negative experiences – the kind that would normally ruin our day become easier to deal with when we get a hug from a loved one.


2. Reduced anxiety and fear

The negative effects of fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem can also be reduced by hugging or being hugged. Researchers have found this to be true even when a hug is reduced to a one-second pat on the back or to touching a teddy bear. Interestingly, some believe that many people are touch deprived and that’s precisely why they experience low mood or anxiety. In this scenario, the power of hugging becomes obvious.


3. Immunity boost

A stronger immune system is one of the surprising benefits of hugging. Just like stress can wreak havoc with our immune system, hugging can strengthen it. For example, a study had 400 people document their perceived sense of social support (including whether they received hugs) and later exposed them to the common cold virus. The risk of infection was lower among those who felt they had strong support and who were hugged often.

4. Improved heart health

Hugs reach the heart, quite literally! Scientists have found that better cardiovascular health is one of the benefits of hugging. In a research study, even a 20-second hug with a romantic partner had beneficial effects for the heart, including lowering blood pressure and improving participants’ ability to deal with stress. This is hardly surprising, since hugging is the physical demonstration of affection and there are other studies that already hint at the link between affection and better cardiovascular health. And it seems that women’s cardiovascular systems are particularly receptive to hugs.

5. Pain relief

Wait, there are still more benefits of hugging! Hugs can also act as a pain reliever. The evidence has led researchers to consider hugging as a form of therapeutic touch. The concept of therapeutic touch has been tested on people who suffer from fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain in bones and muscles. The results were very encouraging, as participants reported decreased pain as well as an increase in quality of life.
Hugging benefits you in multiple ways shutterstock/De Visu

6. Enhanced communication

When learning about the benefits of hugging, we cannot forget that this action is also an alternative form of communication. As humans, and whether we realise it or not, we rely enormously on body language and non-verbal communication. Some studies have found that strangers were able to accurately communicate emotions ranging from fear to gratitude just by using different types of touch. Imagine the all positive emotions that can be communicated with a hug!

7. Oxytocin release

Last but not least, one of the benefits of hugging is that it increases the production of oxytocin, one of the happiness hormones which is responsible for creating that warm fuzzy feeling. The levels of oxytocin in our body rise when we touch or are physically close to someone, and this has been shown to prompt bonding and make us more trusting. Research is still ongoing on the powerful effect of oxytocin in our body, mind, and emotions. For now, why not enjoy that oxytocin rush that comes after giving a hug?


Benefits of hugging: the takeaway

In an increasingly touch-averse world, physical contact can be a fantastic mood booster. The benefits of hugging range from better heart health to a higher ability to cope with pain, stress, low mood, and disease. Hugs also communicate positive emotions and contribute to our happiness by strengthening our bonds with others. So, if you’ve just missed National Hugging Day, why not consider turning every day into a hugging day? 


Written by Dee Marques

dee.jpgA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.



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I get hugs from my son, but I haven't had a good hug from another adult in some time. Another of the little things you miss when seperation occurs

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Hugs are the best! I am a hugger lol

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Another wonderful article. Seems so serendipity that these are like what I want to share myself and the article comes out on Happiness.com Thank You once again. Today as I was teaching meditation to a student, I was explaining how by a mere hug one can pass one positive energy from yourself to another person. Not everyone loves to hug and yet when in difficult times one longs for a warm hug. Once again I lovingly share this article with my students.

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