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The Power of a Hug

Full self-disclosure— I’m a hugger. Now, I’m not going to invade your personal space, and I think I am pretty good at reading social cues to figure out if you are the type of person who would like a hug, tolerate a hug, or hate a hug. But if the situation calls for a hug, I’ll give you one. I will usually ask first if I can, right before I wrap you up.

Hugs are great because they allow you to show more emotion in public between family members, friends, and even total strangers. I think the current temperature of society right now is not…too warm and fuzzy. We are rushed, busy, stretched thin, and stressed at best. Then there is the other portion of society—people who can be rude, aggressive, and angry. Hugs are what we need, but it can be hard for individuals to be vulnerable enough to open themselves up to a hug.

Research shows that hugging (or any welcomed touch), lowers heart rate and blood pressure, lessens depression and anxiety, boosts the immune system, and even relieves pain. Hugging, cuddling, and even hand holding can release endorphins and hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin. These chemicals produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland are nature’s way to regulate our mood, sleep, and health. Serotonin helps us feel happy, calm, and confident. Oxytocin is the “feel good hormone” which helps create connection, bonding, and trust. Research shows that a 20 second hug will release enough oxytocin to make you feel better.

I admit that a 20-second hug with a stranger can feel strange and may not happen. I’m not sure my teenager would even agree to this with his mom. But we do know that the world needs more social connections and appropriate physical touch. Keep the ones you love close and reach out and give some hugs.

Colleen Eusterwiemann, Suicide Pre & Postvention Coordinator for
The Kim Foundation

Colleen earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Northwest Missouri State University and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Colleen has previous experience working for local non-profits focusing on consulting, coordinating, planning, and providing direct care. Colleen joined The Kim Foundation in January of 2022.