“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Virginia Satir, family therapist.
We were born to hug. And I am not just saying that because I’d hug strangers if I could.
Our neural systems and brain chemistry are designed to respond to soothing physical touch. Hugging is both a meaningful emotional experience (or let’s hope it is but I guess it depends on who you hug) but also a very important physiological one.
Physical touch releases the hormone oxytocin, which you may have heard referred to as the ‘love drug’. Sounds a bit sinister, but actually it’s more to do with soothing love from a caregiver than a dodgy potion you give to the object of your affections.
When we hug others or...wait for it...ourselves, we release oxytocin. This in turns reduces stress by lowering cortisol and calms cardiovascular stress.
Your body doesn’t know if you are getting a hug from someone else or administering it to yourself but when the chips are down, and there’s no one about, soothing yourself in this way is a true of act of self-compassion.
NB. If you are recoiling at the idea of a selfie-hug I am not suggesting you do it on the high street or at school pick-up. Or do. No judgement.
So, as it’s national hug day on Monday 21st January (alright, it's in the US but still), find a pal, partner, parent, child, teddy or yourself and give them a hug. It might even have more soothing benefits than wine. And it’s free.