What’s in the power of a hug?

Published: 14 Jan 2020

There are two ‘feel good’ awareness days in January – National Hugging Day and National Compliment Day. We thought ‘how lovely’ and decided to investigate why these simple actions can make such a difference to another person and you. 

We all love a friendly hug – right?  It may come from a relative, a friend or even a stranger, but no matter where it comes from, the simple act of a hug is enough to give us a warm and comforting feeling. 

Compliments also give us a lift – when someone says something nice it can have the power to raise our spirits and help us feel better about ourselves. And it’s not only the receiver reaps the benefits; giving a compliment is a positive action, which has the double benefit of putting a smile on the face of both the giver and the recipient.

What’s behind a hug?

Maybe that feeling of being enveloped in a warm comforting embrace goes back to before we were born, when we were floating around in a warm, muffled and protected environment of our mothers’ womb.  And after we’re born, babies are happiest in the warm embrace of their parents’ arms or swaddled in a blanket.

Most of us are brought up relating hugs with love, comfort, warmth, safety and security. These feelings are hard to resist - physically, emotionally and chemically, which is why as we get older, we still appreciate a hug. It’s the natural thing for humans to do.  

Human beings are not designed to live in isolation, and loneliness has been proven to have serious repercussions on our mental and physical health.  The power of companionship, touch and a hug have many benefits for our health. Different studies prove that hugging helps build a good immune system and decreases the risk of heart disease, lowers blood pressure and triggers the release of healthy hormones.

Humans aren’t the only ones who benefit from a hug; many animals thrive on a cuddle, just like us. Having animal companionship in the house can help to combat loneliness, as well as providing company.  The simple act of stroking a cat or dog can trigger the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin, as well as lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

What’s the simple science behind a hug?

We know a hug makes us feel good – but why is that?  

Give someone a compliment

Compliments too have the power to lift moods, bring a smile and even change a life. When someone says something nice to you about you or something you have done, doesn’t that compliment raise your spirits?

According to psychologists, compliments are very important. Probably much more than you would think.  Compliments can increase happiness, promote a feeling of well-being, create a positive environment, motivate people and convey respect, appreciation, admiration, approval, gratitude, hope and give people a confidence boost.  

10 ‘feel good’ acts for 2020

You never know what someone is going through, just by making these simple actions on a regular basis really could help someone feel better.

As well as touch, in times of need, it's helpful and comforting to reach out and talk to people who are in a similar situation. To connect with over 6000 people affected by cancer and chemotherapy, join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group - a friendly, inclusive and supportive community, offering support and advice to each other.

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