Hugs make us feel good because they release oxytocin in our brain. This "cuddle hormone," when released, makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Oxytocin is a neuropetide released in our brains which promotes feelings of trust, devotion, and bonding. It lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting with others. Hugs help to lower blood pressure, too. It turns out that when humans (and frogs) are touched, the sensation on your skin activates pressure receptors called Pacinian corpuscles which then sends signals to the vagus nerve that is responsible for lowering blood pressure, among other things.
And did you now that hugs may help to alleviate fears? A recent study on fears and self-esteem revealed that hugs and touch can greatly reduce worry of mortality. The study showed that hugging, even just a teddy bear (I recommend a frog), can help soothe a human's existential fears. Interpersonal touch is a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another human may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance. Hugging can be good for our hearts, too. Not only do hugs help to lower blood pressure, it seems they can help to lower heart rate, as well.
Adults, as it turns out, can benefit the most from hugging. Certainly children, and froglets, need loads of hugs, but as humans age the more fragile they become physically and contact/touching becomes increasingly important for good health. Loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have adverse health effects. Just by hugging them, we instantly feel closer to them, and we can decrease their sense of loneliness. Too, hugs are a natural stress reliever...and not just for older folks. Everyone, at any age, can benefit from hugs which reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol found in the body. Hugs reduce tension and send calming messages to the brain. Well-hugged babies are less stressed adults. It's good for them and for the adult...and who doesn't enjoy hugging a baby!
National Hugging Day was created by Kevin Zaborney, back in 1986, and is observed annually in many countries around the world. The idea behind Hugging Day was to encourage family and friends to hug more. But Zaborney does caution to ask first, if you are unsure if your hug will be welcomed, or not. Sometimes humans can feel embarrassed to show their emotions in public and it was Mr. Zaborney's hope that National Hugging Day would change that. I'm not sure if it has, or hasn't, but the idea of having a day dedicated to hugging others certainly appeals to me. I know the value of a good hug and I love the notion of a special day that reminds us to hug more.
With that said, I think I may want to go hug my little brother, Quigley. And then my mom, my dad, my aunts, uncles, cousins....
Frogs come from large families so it looks like I'm going to have a very busy day!
I hope you get, and give, bunches of hugs on Saturday. But, really, there's no reason to wait until then. That's why I'm starting now.