Giving or receiving a hug is one of the best ways to feel better quickly, but have you ever stopped to wonder exactly how hugging works? Read on to discover the science of feeling better via the power of human touch.
Let’s take a closer look at what goes on inside your body when someone hugs you. When someone touches you, they activate pressure receptors within your skin. Known as Pacinian corpuscles, these receptors fire signals to your vagus nerve. This feels so good because the vagus nerve is an area within your brain that plays a vital role in regulating many of your body’s key functions such as blood pressure. When you are hugged, your blood pressure drops as a result of this vagus nerve stimulation and this helps you feel calmer.
Dopamine is another important factor. When we are hugged, our brains release dopamine. Also known as ‘the pleasure hormone,’ dopamine induces feelings of reward, safety and general satisfaction. Findings published in the journal ‘Developmental Review’ suggest that hugging can boost ‘happy hormones’ in the brain, lower blood pressure, and lessen feelings of stress. The positive effects of a hug can be immediate – within seconds of being touched in an affectionate way, the average person will begin to feel less stressed, according to a report published in ‘Scientific Reports.’ Hugs also lower the amount of cortisol – also known as the ‘stress hormone’ – released by the body.
So if you feel anxious, stressed or in need of a psychological boost then why not ask a loved one for a hug today? Both of you will benefit. So get hugging!
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