'Hug A Friend Day' Is Good For Your Health

It's Tuesday, April 26, and it's also Hug a Friend Day. While some are familiar with National Hugging Day that takes place in January, Hug a Friend Day is the time that we celebrate those important friendships that we hold near and dear to our hearts. Many people choose to celebrate by not only giving physical hugs to friends, but also by gifting presents, calling friends on the phone or through FaceTime and simply reaching out to those they may not have had contact with in a while. Some choose to give gifts like stuffed animals that are hugging items as a way of symbolizing the holiday. While Hug a Friend day can keep you in touch with those you care about, studies show that the holiday is good for your health.

Buzzfeed released a comical, yet helpful video for those who may feel uncomfortable giving hugs. The video discusses ways to avoid awkwardness when giving hugs, especially if it is the first time hugging someone. Because hugging is a physical action that can be performed in a platonic manner with family and friends, as well as an intimate gesture between romantic partners, it is a good idea to understand the proper way to hug friends. Though the video addresses hugging in a humorous manner, it does address important issues that someone who may be unfamiliar with proper social gestures may need reinforced.
Hugging provides an emotional response through the release of chemicals in the brain and can increase levels of serotonin and endorphins providing a general feeling of well-being. There have been multiple studies conducted that show just how beneficial receiving hugs can be. According to one study at least four hugs per day was an effective remedy for battling depression, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
"Imagine a prescription which prescribed four hugs per day to a patient suffering from depression. Hanning described findings that four hugs per day was an antidote for depression, eight hugs per day would achieve mental stability and twelve hugs per day would achieve real psychological growth. If this is the case, touch has a greater significance than most of us would realise. The following assignment was written whilst I was undertaking ENB 176 using reflective practice to explain the benefits or problems in using certain techniques."
Another study conducted showed that hugging, along with strong social support, may help boost immunity and protect people from infection. The study surprised some, as many people often assume that hugging someone spreads germs and viruses – not provide resistance towards them. Here is the abstract from the study as listed on NIH.
"Perceived social support has been hypothesized to protect against the pathogenic effects of stress. How such protection might be conferred, however, is not well understood. Using a sample of 404 healthy adults, we examined the roles of perceived social support and received hugs in buffering against interpersonal stress-induced susceptibility to infectious disease. Perceived support was assessed by questionnaire, and daily interpersonal conflict and receipt of hugs were assessed by telephone interviews on 14 consecutive evenings. Subsequently, participants were exposed to a virus that causes a common cold and were monitored in quarantine to assess infection and illness signs. Perceived support protected against the rise in infection risk associated with increasing frequency of conflict. A similar stress-buffering effect emerged for hugging, which explained 32% of the attenuating effect of support. Among infected participants, greater perceived support and more-frequent hugs each predicted less-severe illness signs. These data suggest that hugging may effectively convey social support."
You can learn more about the benefits of hugging in the video below. How will you celebrate Hug a Friend day?
[Photo by Syda Productions/Shutterstock]