Who Wants a Hug?

Cute hugging kids
Yeah, I’ll take one of those. Thanks!

I’m on a bit of a yoga kick lately. And I’m loving it. There’s so much feel-good stuff in it for the body, mind, and soul.

Just like a good hug!

In fact, one of my favourite things about yoga? When you’re lying on your back and the instructor says: “Now, pull your knees up to your chest and give yourself a big hug.”

That’s what I’m talking about, people.

Yesterday (while in mid self-hug), I realized that I didn’t really know exactly why hugs felt so good. Like, what’s the scientific reason? Is there one? There must be.

And yes, there is.

Hugging releases emotionally-positive hormones in the body, including oxytocin and dopamine. The first—oxytocin—is known as the “love hormone.” It plays an important role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, and childbirth. And when we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland (remember that little pea-shaped gland that told your body to start puberty way back when?). Oxytocin can create feelings of calmness and closeness. It can also help lower our heart rates and cortisol levels.

Cortisol? That’s the hormone responsible for stress and high blood pressure. Eek. I definitely want less of that in my life.

person holding round smiling emoji board photo
Want to feel this happy? Try a hug.

A hug also stimulates the brain to release dopamine—the “happy hormone.” Ooh! More of that one, please.

Wait—not too much. While dopamine is responsible for experiencing happiness, dopamine release can also cause addiction. Excess dopamine in the body has also been linked to mania, hallucinations, and schizophrenia.

But let’s just focus on the positives, shall we? At least for right now.

After all, scientists have been busy studying the physiological and psychological benefits of hugging for awhile now. And from lowering blood pressure and heart rate, to decreasing stress levels and increasing emotional bonds, there’s a lot to love about a good hug.