Turns out, hugs don’t just make you feel good. It might sound a little corny or just something fun to do, but researchers find that giving people an affectionate squeeze is actually good for your health.
“The health benefits of giving and receiving hugs are quite impressive. They have a therapeutic effect on people,” says psychologist Joe Rock, PsyD.
He says research has found that hugs:
- Decrease release of cortisol, a stress hormone — University of Miami researchers have published numerous studies backing the benefits of the human touch. They found it can do things like lower the output of the stress hormone cortisol and cause a surge of “feel good” brain chemicals.
- Lower blood pressure and slow heart rate in stressful situations — A University of North Carolinastudy found hugs can lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women
- Strengthen the immune system — Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who experience high levels of social support and frequent hugs may be at a decreased risk for getting sick when under stress.
Dr. Rock says if both people are up for it, go ahead and pass on the handshakes and high-fives and give a hug instead. It breaks down some of the barriers that can make us feel detached, he says.