The Scientific Reason You Need To Hug Someone Today

The Scientific Reason You Need To Hug Someone Today

Eat right, exercise and...hug?

Sure, hugs make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but it turns out they can also reduce stress, lower blood pressure and decrease our risk of getting sick. Not only does a tight squeeze make us feel good, but it can also have significant health benefits!

With cold and flu season upon us, most people have started to prepare: getting flu shots and consuming enough vitamin C can work wonders, but what about getting in our daily dose of hugs? In a 2014 study by Carnegie Mellon University, people who were hugged more frequently in the days leading up to the study were significantly less likely to catch a cold after having been exposed to the virus.

Why does this happen, though? Well turns out it's mostly due to our little friend, oxytocin. Oxytocin does amazing things for our bodies. It is the same chemical released during childbirth and breastfeeding that bonds mothers with their children. Pressure receptors in our skin respond to the sensation of a hug and activate the vagus nerve. This leads to a release of oxytocin in our bodies and in turn has an array of health benefits. However, this same pathway doesn't occur with flimsy hugs. (You know, the ones you give to your parent's friends you just met or your distant relatives you haven't seen in 10 years.) Those flimsy air hugs won't provide you with nearly the same number of health benefits as a big bear hug will!

If you're hurt, you're in luck! In addition to increased immune functioning, high oxytocin levels also lead to faster healing of wounds and less pain. Hugging releases endorphins, which block the pain pathways to the brain, working as a natural pain killer.

Feeling stressed? Stress can lead to high blood pressure and increased heart rates. Luckily, there's a pretty quick fix as oxytocin also helps lead to lower blood pressure and heart rates! According to a study at the University of North Carolina, women who received more hugs during the study had higher oxytocin levels, lower blood pressure, and lower heart rates. Oxytocin also leads to a reduction in cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in the body.

Not only does oxytocin make us healthier, but it makes us feel pretty dang good, too. Oxytocin triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin (pleasure hormones) in the body, making us feel happy and reducing anxiety and depression. A 2010 study found that animals treated with an oxytocin inhibitor produced more signs of depressive behavior than those who were not.

It's also never too early to start hugging. According to Huffington Post, there may be a link between how frequently babies are hugged and how they manage stress as adults.

While it may seem like hugs are a cure-all treatment, there is a stipulation and it may come as a blow to the "Free Hugs" campaign. According to neurophysiologist Jürgen Sandkühler, what is most important to consider when giving and receiving hugs is whether or not you trust the other person. If the hug comes from a stranger, or is unwanted by either party, oxytocin is not released. In fact, another hormone, cortisol, is released instead, causing an increase in stress due to our perceived violation of distance-keeping behaviors.

All in all, as long as the hug is tight and comes from someone we care about, oxytocin will keep doing it's job. In addition to oxytocin creating mini-miracles in our bodies, psychologically, hugging is extremely beneficial. It makes us feel safe, loved and comfortable while reducing our anxiety and giving us confidence. Hugging is a way of showing our social support for our loved ones, which has benefits of it's own as well. In short, hugs are really freakin' cool, so make sure to take care of yourself this season and get on hugging!

Cover Image Credit: Google

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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.

We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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The Selflessness Of Self-Care

It is OK to nurture yourself before nurturing others.


Do you find yourself prioritizing taking care of others before taking care of yourself? I do.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Saiarchana, and I am a nurturer. Nurturing people is something that has almost become second-nature to me because I am so accustomed to doing it. I love uplifting others and being there to give them support when they are in need. I love giving support to others so much that I am even majoring in Psychology. Nurturing is something that is incredibly important to me. I nurture others because I don't want anyone to feel alone or unsupported.

But, sometimes I forget to nurture myself.

I used to believe that taking care of others involved sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice was my own energy and self-care. I lived under the belief that by pulling away and taking care of myself, I would be labeled as selfish. So, I kept on nurturing others around me.

Until I broke down.

I was giving so much support and care to others, that I had forgotten about me. I am also a very important person in my life. My relationship with myself is incredibly important, and I had forgotten that. I was so focused on pouring love and care to others, that I had forgotten to water myself with those same sustaining forces. I was getting drained and worn out from nurturing and giving love to so many people around me because I was neglecting myself.

When I realized what was happening, I finally understood: Love is not starvation. I do not need to starve myself in order to feed others. I do not need to neglect my self-care in order to care for and give love to the people around me. Nurturing others does not equate to neglecting myself. Because, once I neglect myself, I end up not being able to show up fully for the people in my life.

I read a quote by an influencer named Allie Michelle. Michelle said:

"Taking care of yourself is selfless. An empty well cannot give water to a village."

When I read this, it was as if my eyes developed clearer vision. I recognized that I believed that self-care was selfish when actually it is one of the most selfless things I can ever do for this world. When I am able to take care of myself, I am at a healthier and stable position to give care to others. When I give from a place of lack, I end up lacking more. Giving my energy to others when I am in desperate need of recharging my own energy will end up making me feel emptier. It is like the good analogy from Michelle's quote. I cannot give from an empty source. When I forget to give love and care to myself, I reach a point where there is nothing left to give to others, because I haven't maintained a solid foundation for myself.

Giving care to others should be a fulfilling experience, not a draining one. In order for it to be a fulfilling experience, I need to make sure I am not giving from a place of emptiness. I need to nurture myself because doing so will give me a stable foundation. So, I finally understand the key to nurturing others: making sure I am nurturing myself first.

So, what now?

I am going to continue giving love and care to others. But this time, I am going to make sure I am nurturing myself too.

I hope you nurture yourself too. You are worthy of the love and care you give to others.

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