Benefits of Hugging for Mental Health

A psychologist discusses the benefits of hugging and how it can help with your mental health.

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CLEVELAND – If you’ve noticed you feel better after giving your partner a hug, you’re not alone.

In fact, a small study reveals that it can actually help women reduce their stress.

“What’s happening on the inside when we receive a hug is there is a release of oxytocin. That is that feel good chemical that when it’s released, we feel bonded to those around us,” explained Susan Albers, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic. “There’s also a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone that pumps through our body when we feel stressed or overwhelmed.”

The study examined 76 men and women who were romantically involved and found hugging helped as a stress buffer for women.

Interestingly, it didn’t seem to have the same impact on men.

Dr. Albers said hugging can also be a great non-verbal way to connect.

Instead of reassuring your partner through words, a hug can offer the same kind of support and feeling of reassurance.

She said it’s important to make sure your hugs don’t feel routine or like a chore – you should be present in the moment.

And for it to be effective, it needs to be between five and ten seconds long.

“Be mindful that not everyone enjoys hugs, so if this is someone around you, a friend or family member, know that touching their hand or rubbing their back can be just as effective as giving a warm hug,” Dr. Albers advised.

She said another tip is to ask the individual first if they need a hug or are okay receiving a hug before actually doing so. 

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