What is it about hugging that makes us feel so good? We all know that we feel better, happier, more relaxed, and sometimes a little amorous after a hug, but why is that?
The physiological reason is that when we hug, it stimulates oxytocin. Oxytocin is one of the many neurotransmitters in your brain and acts on your limbic system where our emotions are housed.
In simple terms, when we hug we form an immediate social bond which connects us to other people. In countries where people hug a lot, there is recorded lower heart rates and cortisol levels. As you will know, cortisol is released into our blood when we are stressed.
Additionally, hugging causes other 'feel good' chemicals to be produced such as serotonin and dopamine. The nervous system is also ‘balanced out’ when we hug, whatever that means.
Women know the benefits of hugging. Look around you, you will often see women hugging each other when they first meet, when they share a story, when they enjoy what was just said, when they laugh, and when they say goodbye. It is not uncommon for women to hug each other at least three times when they meet and chat.
Men, we shake hands from a distance. Can’t get too close, don’t what people to think that we are soft now do we? We might come in close for a shoulder touch but will always slap the other person's back just so that it looks like we aren't hugging or exchanging emotions. Can't have that, we make it look like a shoulder charge on the footy field to cover up our natural urge and response.
Men could do with hugging men more often. In countries where men hug men such as India, there are lower rates of stress, depression and emotional problems. And it's not just because they have other things to worry about, because they actually don't. Most are content with their lives whatever that is. You will see men walking hand-in-hand as we used to do many years ago.
A cautionary note – men hugging men is a good thing, men hugging women can be okay, men hugging women after a couple of drinks is probably in dangerous territory and should be used with the upmost discretion. A couple of glasses of alcohol, a hug, and the next thing is the man thinks that she loves him. She doesn't you fool, hug goodbye and leave immediately!
If you can't control yourself, stick to hugging animals.