The Healing Power of Hugs

Mental Health

Dr. Happy


What if you could take a drug that reduced feelings of loneliness, isolation, stress and anger? And what if this same drug increased positive emotions, such as happiness, as well as improving your general health and wellbeing; without the risk of any side-effects?

Well, there is a drug that does all this and more; and it occurs naturally within your very own body! It’s called oxytocin. And as well as not having any side-effects there’s even more good news – you won’t need painful procedures, injections or even to take any pills or potions.

So how then does one access this drug? How is this wonder substance administered?

Quite simply, via hugs!

Which is absolutely awesome because it benefits the giver AND the receiver; a classic “win-win”.

Research has shown that hugs cause us to feel “warm and fuzzy” inside as well as more socially connected. Hugs, and physical contact more generally, improve the intimacy of our close relationships and they’re even beneficial for our social relationships too. They lower blood pressure and some studies suggest they might even alleviate fears and anxieties. Physical contact with a loved one has also been found to slow heart rates and (given the previous findings, not all that surprisingly) reduce stress.

All up, hugs are positively associated with good health, happiness, overall wellbeing and connectedness.

Notably, one need not be a doctor or psychologist or have any qualifications in health or medicine to administer this powerful and positive “treatment”. And just as importantly, hugs can be delivered anywhere, any time by anyone to anyone and…for free!

(I probably should insert a note of caution here, or a caveat of sensibleness – obviously, it’s not recommended that you walk up to complete strangers and just hug them out of the blue! There are, as I’m no doubt you’re aware, certain social mores that need to be adhered to in this context. So hug away, and enjoy the benefits about which I’ve just written, but keep your touching to appropriate social situations and to those who’d appreciate you and your physical contact.)

So if we accept that hugs are beneficial and enjoyable and can positively influence all those involved, how many hugs should be give or receive a day?

Well, there aren’t really any studies that have definitively determined the “ideal dose” for everyone in every circumstance but there is a well-known saying among those who work in this area which is that essentially, we need four hugs a day for survival; we need eight hugs a day for maintenance; and we need twelve hugs a day for growth.

Imagine that. A “therapy” you can give or receive any time, at no cost and with no risk, that will directly improve your happiness, health and overall experience of life!

Personally, therefore, I’d go for the full dozen!


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Please note: Dr. Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.
Category:Mental Health

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