Hug It Out: Science Says You Need 8 A Day

Hug It Out: Science Says You Need 8 A Day

When you are physically touched, your body responds. However, it is what happens in your brain that is the most interesting reaction. It turns out that simply hugging another person creates an overall systemic effect that has challenged the use of pharmaceuticals for the same outcome. 

Studies are once again bringing science into human connection as some interesting trial results are showing a slew of brain enhancements when you hug someone. 

Hold Hands, Feel Empathy, Reduce Pain 

Start with hand holding. In a small study of 22 heterosexual couples, published in PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pain levels were recorded when each couple would hold hands, referred to as ‘coupling’. 

According to the study, pain was reduced, particularly when empathy was displayed, stating,

“…we found a coupling network in the partner touch–pain condition above and beyond all other conditions. This network consisted of coupling between the central regions of the female partners’ brains and mainly the right hemisphere of the male partners’ brains…Notably, we found that the power of partner touch–pain coupling is related to the degree of pain analgesia [pain relief] in the target and to the partner’s empathic accuracy.”

Hold someone’s hand and listen. That’s all it takes to lower stress and reduce pain. Then move on to hugs which reduce pain on a greater scale particularly when many are experienced per day.

Natural Oxytocin Release

The big results when a hug is experienced is when natural oxytocin is released. Not to be confused with the addictive pain killer, oxycontin, this natural form is known as the “bonding hormone” linked to relaxation and nurturing. 

The moment you hug someone your brain increases oxytocin levels in the blood while at the same time lowers adrenaline levels. Adrenaline works with the flight or fight response creating high levels of “survival stress”.

Optimism, Self-Esteem and Anti-depressant

One simple hug can generate a progression of beneficial responses that include increasing optimism, self-esteem while reducing depression. This is due to the release of oxytocin mixed with dopamine and serotonin two hormones that enhance mood. In addition, pain killing endorphins are also released creating a mix of positivity the inevitably makes both huggers smile and feel great. 

Alternative Daily reports that, 

“PET scans and MRIs have shown that when receiving a hug, the brain releases increased levels of dopamine. At the same time, increased levels of serotonin and endorphins are released into the blood.”

Happy Heart

If someone is riddled with stress or feeling backed into a corner, give them a hug (or get one yourself). As life seems to close in for one reason or another your blood pressure can skyrocket. This puts excessive pressure on your heart. A simple hug has been linked to lowering blood pressure and relieving heart strain. More hugs mean more calm which can significantly benefit your health. 

Propel reported that,

“In a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, researchers worked with two groups of women….The women in the no-contact group showed significantly higher blood pressure readings than those who hugged and held hands. The participants who did not have any contact with their partners also developed a quickened heart rate of ten beats per minute compared to five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.”

It is all due to something called Pacinian corpuscles, receptors that when touched send signals to your vagus nerve. This nerve responds by lowering blood pressure.

Future Generations

When children are hugged on a regular basis they are predicted to grow into less stressful adults. According to an Emory University study as reported by the Huffington Post, it was found that, 

“rats found a link between touch and relieving stress, particularly in the early stages of life. The research concluded that the same can be said of humans, citing that babies’ development — including how they cope with stress as adults — depends on a combination of nature and nurture.”


Humans are built to procreate but touch, as hugging or any other form, positively affects your brain until you die. The is why it is essential to hug it out often, 8 a day if possible. This is especially important for those that have little physical human connection such as the elderly or those who are immobile.