Are you a hugger?

Seriously, who doesn’t love a good hug? Hugging between friends and loved ones is really good for you. Even hugging of pets has amazing emotional and physical benefits, not least of them bringing a pleasant, warm feeling in our hearts and body. Surprisingly, even tree-hugging is good for you too. It isn’t just for hippies and conservationists. So, whether it’s a simple squeeze, cute cuddle or big bear hug, you should absolutely hug someone (or something) every day. Here’s why:

Hugging decreases feelings of loneliness.

According to researchers at Ohio State University, physical touch and hugging becomes increasingly important as we age. “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health,” says psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. Hugging someone instantly makes you feel connected and closer to that person, which helps fight loneliness.

Hugging restores self-esteem.

Our family’s physical touch told us we were loved and special from the time we were born. In fact, the tactile sense is vital for infants because it is through touch that we initially recognize our parents. This association of touch and love is not lost in adulthood. When you hug, it reminds you at an intrinsic level that you are special and loved. When you know you are special, it restores and actually boosts self-esteem.

Hugging reduces tension and stress.

When you give or receive a hug, your muscles relax and tension in the body is released. You immediately feel calmer as the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body is reduced and calming messages are sent to the brain. Extend hugging a little longer and you will lift your serotonin levels and elevate your mood, as well as soothe any body aches and pains you have by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.

Hugging deepens relationships.

The tidal wave of energy and emotions you exchange when you hug are an investment in the relationship. They encourage understanding and foster empathy for one another. And, when there is mutual understanding and empathy, the relationship grows and deepens. Hugging is particularly great because it is synergistic. This means the total effect of both your investments in the relationship is greater than the sum of the two – a win-win situation for all involved.

Hugging balances out the nervous system.

The skin has a network of tiny pressure centers called pacinian corpuscles that sense touch. When you hug, the pressure centers are activated and the resultant galvanic skin response causes an improvement in skin conductance. Improved skin conductance is a result of the effect of moisture and electricity in the skin, which points to a more balanced and healthy nervous system.

Hugging lowers blood pressure.

In addition to calming and balancing out your nervous system, hugging lowers your blood sugar pressure. The tactile sensation on your skin activates the pressure receptors pacinian corpuscles, which then send signals to the vagus nerve in the brain that is responsible for (among other things), lowering blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure is especially helpful if you’re feeling anxious.

Hugging boosts the immune system.

The gentle pressure you exert during a hug and emotional charge this creates stimulates the thymus gland, a specialized organ of the immune system that promotes and controls production of white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are an integral part of the immune system. They engulf and digest viruses and other pathogens in the body, thereby keeping you healthy and disease free.

Hugging improves heart function.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that people who did not have any physical contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to five beats per minute for those who hugged their partners. Turns out hugging not only warms your heart figuratively speaking, but also heals and reduces abnormal heart function in a literal sense. You feel more relaxed and happy when you hug. Your pulse rate slows down and your breath comes easier.

Hug someone every day; your life will not only be happier and healthier, but probably also last longer.