The Healing Benefits of Hugs

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Hello and welcome to my warm and fuzzy page about the healing benefits of hugs!

Who doesn’t love a big hug?monkey-hugs-benefits-of-hugs

You may think that everyone does, but yes, there are people who don’t really enjoy it very much at all ……..and can’t you  feel it !  It feels as feels as if they cant wait for you to let go!

Maybe they were not hugged as a child, maybe they’ve been hurt and they’re protecting themselves , maybe they simply just don’t like physical closeness for any number of reasons (see bottom of post for more )

However , having acknowledged the above in this post,  I want to talk generally about the physical,emotional and psychological effects of a great big hug, especially for those who have suffered narcissistic abuse.

Healing Hugs

Now I think you will agree there are hugs and there are hugs…… many options!

The “waist and neck” hug commonly used by couples or very close friends…








The man hug ..




The besties hug…



The hug you give when someone is sad…..








The hug you give when someone is anxious..






The running jump hug…….



The group hug!

The good old “I’m so happy to see you ” hug………

not forgetting one of the best ..the sleepy hug

..and lastly the very important  “self love” hug !

So what are the healing benefits of hugs in general  ?

Hugs can :

Reduce stress and lower anxiety which has the spin off effect of lowering cortisol levels which in turn reduces the risks of heart disease!  Phew…..take deep breath!

Increase the levels of seratonin …the feel good chemical in the brain (often depleted in people with depression )

Increase levels of oxytocin…the hormone of love!

Help us sleep better.

Increase our resistance to cold , flu and illness in general by strengthening our immune system.

Stave off feelings of loneliness or isolation and increase happiness (its those wonderful endorphins we hear so much  about!) Free hugging is a great way to give a lonely person some “good medicine”!

Relax our bodies.

Increase feelings of trust and the willingness of people to share problems they otherwise may not.

Increase self esteem….hugs can serve to bring back those childhood feelings of being hugged by our parents and feeling special , cared about and loved  . Our body never forgets those feelings which means that every time we are hugged we are reminded of how we felt as a child and enable us to feel
good about ourselves .

Stimulate the thymus gland which has to do with the production of leukocytes (white blood cells) which fight infection and illness.

Release endorphins which block pain pathways and  alleviate muscle aches by increasing circulation to the sore areas.

Let’s delve deeper into WHY and HOW hugs can do so much for us?

Its all about hormones and our nervous system and the effect that  being close and/or  having skin contact with another person can have on us ……..the good news is that cuddling a pet or getting up close and friendly with any cute and cuddly animal can have similar effects too so if you’re all out of humans , go for a pet hug !

The feel good hormones and chemicals involved in this huggy business are :

Oxytocin is commonly known as the love hormone, its responsible for the conception of many a baby and then during delivery oxytocin plays and important role in relaxing mum to be during labour . Then during breastfeeding its the hormone that is involved when mum’s milk “comes in ” and also when it “lets down” …..even thinking about my babies when I was out and about (without the baby) was enough for the love hormone to stimulate lactation and bingo…… big wet patches leaked on my shirt !! love-hugs-narcissism

All breastfeeding mums will know what I mean ! So you can see why a great big hug can stimulate oxytocin and is therefore calming and increases connectedness and feelings of positivity !


Seratonin as mentioned above is lacking in those with people who have depression .  The pleasurable feeling that comes with a hug releases the chemical seratonin into our blood stream. The bonus,  apart from making us feel better and improving our mood is the decrease in the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.  Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress .  Pets are great in so many ways !


Dopamine…is known as the “pleasure hormone” . People with too little dopamine in their blood stream don’t derive pleasure from things they used to . I know this because my father had Parkinson’s disease in later life . He went from being a happy outgoing person to a quiet old man over a period of time and also  became depressed due in part to having too little dopamine.  Fortunately, my Dad was a very “huggy” sort of person so we did our best to keep him in good supply  of dopamine!


Endorphins…..are neurotransmitters which, as the name suggests, transmit electrical signals within the nervous system. … they can actually have a similar effect to commonly used pain killers such as codeine and morphine in terms of how we feel pain . So …get hugging next time you have pain!!


When you are hugging you aren’t thinking about too much else……….hugs force us to be in the moment, to let go and be present in the moment,  connecting with the  person with their arms around you …..AND they have other random benefits that I bet you hadn’t thought of either!

1. They’re cheap as chips .

2. You don’t  have to make an appointment to get one (unlike a massage!)

3. They don’t take much time (although as discussed the longer the better!).

4. They can be given almost anywhere and at anytime .

5. You can hug big people and little people , old people and babies .

6. To receive a hug you have to give one so it’s a two way transaction !

HUGS  are so versatile !! Get hugging NOW !


How does a FIRMER hug work even more effectively than an everyday friendly hug ?

The pressure that is felt during a firm hug stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and calms you down .

As happens with a child having a tantrum , when you first hold them tight and they struggle,  its because for a few seconds they feel threatened and  are trying to “flee” (as in the fight or flight response which is the the sympathetic nervous system trying to ” save ” us from danger  ) but very quickly when the parasympathetic system kicks in the child  stops struggling and relaxes. Same goes for ” big kids” !

It’s a pretty sophisticated system but sometimes the parasympathetic still needs a bit of help , such as a HUG,  in order to overcome our anxious state of mind  .

How does skin contact help ?

The link between our feelings of self-worth and having been cuddled by our parents or caregivers from baby-cuddle-hugsbabyhood onward stays with us into adulthood.

As a former midwife I know that babies who are not held regularly will generally  fail to thrive compared to those who’s parents are more tactile with their kids. In extreme cases of neglect babies eventually learn not to cry because they know that no one is coming to comfort them so they give up crying  . So so sad .

When we give someone a  hug we are usually very close to them and probably have some degree of skin contact.
The skin has very sensitive nerve endings as well as pressure sensitive areas that can tight-hug-narcissismsense touch. You know when you sustain a burn superficially it gives you grief for hours because the nerve endings are right there under the skin . But if you sustain a deeper burn, which is obviously a more severe injury, you may feel almost nothing because the surface nerve endings have all been destroyed by the burn .


How long should a hug be ? How many do we need  ?

How long is a piece of string? As many as you like ! As many as you can fit it! As many as you can give and get in the course of your day! The more the better !

The literature says that 8 hugs a day is a good amount!!I’m sure their are people who give/receive a few hugs a day , especially those with little children and some who receive none on a daily basis , especially older people living alone. I don’t think there are many of us who would fit in 8 but we should all be giving it our best shot and trying for as many as possible every day!

As for length of time for a hug , I think that’s an individual thing . As the infographic below says 20secs is ideal for release of oxytocin but I’m pretty sure  that whether short ,long or in-between , a firm hug of almost any length is valuable in so many ways to those  involved !

 What do the “gurus” say about hugs? I asked my own psychologist and she said..
 …. hugs can do everything from making us to feel loved and needed , reminding us of happy memories , comforting us and breaking down the walls we put up to helping us feel more comfortable around people, being better able to express our thoughts and emotions and allowing ourselves to just simply “be”. All this and more from something so simple as putting your arms around someone and squeezing them tight!!
           WOW!  What a wonderful resource we have at our disposal !


Well its over and out for me now ….but not without a big hug to you all! 

Hug someone you love …OR… offer a free hug to a stranger today …OR…hug yourself!

And please let me know your thoughts about your own hugging experiences below, I’d love to hear about a time when a simple hug made your day!

NB. I should say that some individuals including those with autism and those who have been physically and or sexually abused may not be able to cope with physical contact. Unexpected physical contact can sometimes be quite harmful to the victim . If you know or suspect that someone has autism or is a victim of sexual or physical abuse please respect their personal space and ask first if it is ok to give them a hug.












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6 thoughts on “The Healing Benefits of Hugs”

  1. Hugs really are beneficial for everyone. It helps loneliness and low self esteem and stressful situations. Even having a bad day, a hug can turn things around. Who hasn’t hugged someone they haven’t seen in a log time either? And people hug their pets as well. It’s the one thing that can change a person’s day and attitude. Give it a try the next time you meet someone who is down and out.

    1. A hug really, as you say Rob, can change our (and/ or the huggee’s )day! Hopefully its beneficial to both parties ! Pets are great which is why I included them in my post , such a great benefit for lonely and older folk .

      Thanks for taking the time to review my post ! Hope to see yours up there soon! (or PM me if you like with your URL)


  2. The amazing power of a hug. It was clear to me that hugging is something we should all try and do more of.
    I did enjoy reading about all the different ways hugs benefit and the chemicals that go along with a hug.
    I don’t know that random strangers you pass by would feel the same way. You never know what kind of reactions that it could trigger.
    What are your thoughts about that?

    1. Thanks Eric, Yes I am aware of that so I was more thinking of the person who has the sign up saying free hugs so that you arent going up randomly to strangers ! Ill edit that and make it more clearer . I also added the bit at the bottom re people with issues such as autism and thgose who have suffered abuse . Certainly it requires some judgement before hugging all and sundry!

  3. Hey Ros….

    Thank you for this hug page! It validates my own feeling that you need hugs to get through your day.

    When my husband died, I made a game of collecting at least 8 hugs a day. I told my friends about it and they contributed generously. I kept track and told them what number hug they were that day. They got a kick out of it and I think the hugs did help me heal a lot faster.

    (I am glad that you mentioned the need to give people who are not able to accept hugs the choice to participate. If you’re not into hugs, they can, indeed, feel like an attack.)

    1. Oh gosh Netta , what a lovely story about the help you gained from hugging and how they helped you heal after your husbands passing . Its great that you were also able to make the most of a sad situation by letting people what number hug they were !

      Thanks for reviewing my post and I hope to return the favour sometime !


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