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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hugging and Health

It's Not Rocket Science is not all about diet and exercise.  Today - it's about hugs.  Hugs, you ask?  What do hugs have to do with health?  I just read a quote by Virginia Satir "You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for daily maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth."  Research has proven that hugs can help you be healthier, think and feel younger, reduce your stress, add years to your life and even slow down aging.  What is it about hugs that accomplishes these things?  So, what is the science beyond this miracle action - the hug?

Researchers at the University of Vienna concluded that oxytocin is released into the bloodstream when you hug someone who is close to you.  This lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and can even improve memory.   In a very interesting finding by these researchers, they also discovered that the same effect is not achieved by a hug from someone you do not know or if the hug is not something that both the parties want at that time - in those cases, a different hormone (the stress hormone - cortisol) is secreted instead of oxytocin. Researchers at the University of North Carolina previously concluded that hugs increase the release of oxytocin and decrease the risk of heart disease. In addition to oxytocin, hugs also stimulate the brain to release dopamine (the pleasure hormone).  Some researchers have even concluded that hugs are more important as we age - Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser has previously been quoted as saying "The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health."

So - hug your friends, your family, your pets, and others close to you at least 4 times but strive for 12 times every day.  You'll be happier and healthier as a result.

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