My sister is younger than I am. Pretty similar in size and shape with roughly the same shade of brown hair. That is part of the short list of things we have in common. She’s much edgier than I am with her hair in a shorter stylish bob-like cut while mine is long and often left in natural waves, much more conservative. We differ greatly in our opinions of presidential nominees, gun control, and education, leading us to often bicker. But despite being so opposite and in constant disagreement, I know I can get the one thing I need most from her when I’m having a heart wrenching day and feeling defeated, a hug.
Hugs are a wonderfully and seemingly instinctive thing. We long for it in moments of despair and during bursts of joy and excitement. A hug is a method of connecting us with the people around us, even strangers. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of hugs with strangers and both were extremely emotional moments. When they happen, you get pulled into providing a basic necessity that the other person may not even realize they need. For me, I was alone at a pay phone in the middle of nowhere trying to reach home after a receiving a text message in a no cell service zone telling me a loved one was in the hospital. My family answered and I could hear All of them on the other end, which was a bad sign since they are never all in the same place at the same time. I fell to my knees, knowing someone whom I’m very close to was not doing well. While still holding onto the phone, the young man who had just used it before me, had knelt down beside me and hugged me. Crouched on the ground with the phone extended as far as it could go, in that moment, I wasn’t alone.
But what is really going on when we embrace someone? The National Institute of Health points out that the feelings of love and affection, like the act of a hug, creates a response in our bodies which releases oxytocin. They go on to mention the benefits stating that, “Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal.” Those sound like some pretty great benefits for such a simple act. The Scientific American also lists out some great benefits such as research studies out of Carnegie Mellon have shown that the feeling of being connect to others, such as that with physical touch, helps with preventing stress-induced sickness. Like, I mentioned in my first blog, Start the Path to Inner Peace, why not build up resilience? Create those connections with the people around you and start today by giving someone you love a hug. Both of you will receive the benefits so why not share in them together.