We all like a hug from a loved one. It makes us feel good, and safe, and protected. A hug is a way of showing affection.
Some people are just “huggy” people – they will greet strangers with a hug hello or good bye. I know not all people are like this, and many don’t like their personal space intruded upon.
But did you know that a hug can make you feel better? That brief human contact has been shown to help lift depression, calm anxiety and anger. It’s hard to stay mad when someone wraps their arms around you! Hugs work just like a Thundershirt does for a dog – it wraps snugly around the dog giving the sense of being held, and this increase on the sternum and solar plexus, which in turn creates a more relaxed state. It lowers the levels of cortisol, which is released in periods of stress. In turn, your blood pressure drops, and heart rate may slow. This means it can boost your immune system and relaxed muscles can help ease physical pain.
Hugs give a physical connection to another live being. Maybe you need to help them as much as their hug can help you. A hug draws us out of ourselves and our problems to form a physical connection, however brief, with another person.
Marcus Julian Felicetti wrote a great column a few years ago on this very topic. Visit 10 Reasons Why We need 8 Hugs a Day to read more. In short, Hugging just makes us feel good.
But what about hugging your pet? Seems there are mixed reviews on this, according to a New York Times article. My advice – if your own dog or cat likes to have attention and hugs you back (like my dog does) then by all means make it part of your day. If your pet is wriggling around to get away, then don’t. And for safety reasons, don’t hug a strange pet that you don’t know.
The good news is that just being around a pet can make you healthier, even without the touch of a hug. Pets lower blood pressure and heart rate, and significantly lower stress in their human companions. Lower levels of cortisol means less stress on the kidneys, muscles and heart. This study showed that people who were pet owners stood a much better long term survival rate after a heart attack compared to non-pet owners. Actually any animal interaction can help lower stress – not just a dog or cat. Watching birds, or even a tank of fish swimming around can alleviate some stress. It’s just a lot harder to hug a fish.
So next time you feel a bit blue, or stressed, or down – go ask for a hug. Make it several a day! And don’t forget to hug your dog or cat. Make them feel loved too!
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