There’s no time like the holidays to hug your children and other people you love. But the truth is that we should be hugging each other year round, not just because it feels good, but because doctors say it can actually improve your health.
There is evidence that hugs decrease our stress level, help alleviate depression and lower blood pressure. Pressure receptors just below the skin called Pacinian corpuscles receive the supportive touch that comes with a hug and send a signal to the vagus nerve in the brain. The nerve has branches throughout the body. It, in turn, sends a signal to the heart to slow down, thus decreasing blood pressure.
This is probably more than you wanted to know about hugs, but the bottom line is that they not only have a positive affect emotionally and mentally, but physically as well. Several studies show that eight hugs a day is the optimum number for emotional and physical well-being.
“I only have had three today,” I say to my youngest as I come in the door from work. “I need five more.” We pantomime five bear hugs, pulling away and coming in again for another embrace.
So, hug your children, hug your spouse, hug your parents, hug your friends, and don’t just do it on New Year’s Eve, do it whenever you get the chance. Even non-huggers will cave when you move in for the hug. They can’t help it. And you might even reform them, or at the very least lower their blood pressure.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.