A Hug or Kiss?

Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.

~Jacques Prévert

A hug or a kiss.  If you had to make a choice which one would you choose?  Personally, I would prefer a combination of the two depending on who the other person is.  But if I had to choose one over the other, it would definitely, without question be a hug.

As it turns out, I am not alone.  Recently I took an informal poll among colleagues, friends and family.  An overwhelming 90 percent said they would prefer a hug. When I asked why most would respond by saying that they love the warmth and physical connectedness that goes along with a hug.

But while we humans crave the bodily contact, most people don’t even stop to think of the actual benefits of hugging to our physical and psychological well-being. Hugs don’t just feel good; they are also good for you.  In fact, research advocates that people who hug more live happier and healthier lives. Here’s why:

    1. Hugging boosts immunity because doing so releases mood-boosting chemicals such as oxytocin and serotonin.  The hormone oxytocin is also believed to aid in social bonding and trust.
    1. Hugging reduces heart rates and lowers blood pressure by helping us to relax and improve blood circulation. When we hug, we lower the production of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
    1. Hugging improves our mental well-being by helping us to develop a greater sense of closeness and compassion for others.  And in return, we feel a greater sense of acceptance and love.
    2. Hugging makes dealing with pain more bearable.

Anyone who knows me well will say that I am a hugger.  And I don’t just want a little hug; I want a warm, embracing hug.  When you truly give someone a hug, you get hugged right back like a boomerang.  Who can ask for more than that? It surprised me recently when I read that Americans aren’t as “touchy-feely” in public as other countries.  Maybe it’s about time we changed the status quo.

In my book, Make Up Your Mind to be Happy: 105 Simple Tips, I list several simple, spirit boosters.  These tips are meant to help readers choose happiness by changing negative thought patterns and focusing more on the positive.  Not surprising, tip #27 is “Give Someone a Hug.”

People who hug their spouse or children at the start of every day have been shown to have more stress-free, productive days.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Hugging helps us to feel loved and appreciated.  When we feel loved, we are more secure and happier.  This in return leads to long-lasting and happier relationships, both platonic and romantic.

Research has even shown that hugging stimulates brain cells which leads to a higher level of intelligence.  Jay Gordon, M.D. co-author of  Brighter Baby writes, “Children who get sustained from of touching, such as a long hug everyday are smarter.”

Earlier I asked the question, a hug or kisses?  While most prefer hugging, it’s important to note that kissing has many benefits as well. Like hugging, kissing boosts our emotional and physical well-being.  It even helps us to burn calories, burning anywhere from two to six calories a minute.

In the end, however, most would still prefer a hug.  Despite the medical benefits, hugging also communicates many positive things to the other person.  Hugging a friend helps to communicate, for example, that we care and that we appreciate the friendship.  A family member may be reminded of the emotional bond that exist and get a sense of acceptance and love.  A hug to your significant other communicates many things.  Besides compassion, you are expressing your commitment to the relationship.

And let’s not forget that despite the type of relationship involved, a hug always helps to open a feeling of contentment and relaxation.  It boosts self-esteem and confidence in both us and our relationship with the other person involved.  But there are some people out there that are just not comfortable with hugging in certain situations.  If that’s the case, you will certainly sense it when you reach out to the other person.

Sadly, there still exists that minority, though, who choose to miss out on all these benefits.  Recently, I reached out to hug a friend who later told me that she “didn’t like being pushed into a hug.”  She said she wasn’t referring to me but I just can’t get that comment out of my head and will not approach her nowadays with a hug unless she makes the first move.  I guess you can say my comfort level has been a bit compromised.

Another time, after a presentation, people came up to me to give me a hug.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to face this woman who quickly blurted out, “I don’t do hugs.” We both looked at each other and shared a laugh.

So while most will welcome a hug, there are those who may not feel comfortable.  To these people I say that while I, of course, respect their feelings and right to not have their personal space “invaded” by a hugger like me, I encourage them to just once open up and really give it a try.  Hugs are indeed free.  And they may just be all it takes to boost both your mood and your immune system.

A colleague once told me that the secret to a happy marriage was making hugging part of your daily routine.  Honestly, one of the highlights of my day is getting to snuggle with my husband each night. Being very happily married, I’m not sure I’d say that hugging is the lone, necessary secret ingredient but I can unequivocally say that it is definitely one of them. Hugging goes a long way to contributing to our own health and happiness in life.

Give it a try.  Hug more. Be happy.  Feel loved.  Live longer.  Enough said.

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