There he was in the ICU attached to what seemed like endless tubes and monitors – too weak to speak, his eyes were bright and focused as he handed it to me. I looked down at the two words my friend had scribbled on the pad of paper near his hospital bed.
I said, “You’d like a hug?” and he smiled and nodded enthusiastically. I carefully stepped over and around the tubing to reach out to him – and there it was – that sweet moment of connection where time stands still and we embrace the unseen bond that instantly links us to one another.
So why do we experience feelings of comfort and safety when we hug? How did my friend KNOW he needed a hug? Because………….
A hug is powerful medicine for mind, body and spirit! In Love, Medicine & Miracles published in 1986, Dr. Bernie Siegel wrote, “One day I hope we can prescribe something like one hug every three hours instead of a drug…” Today, thirty years later, we have scientific evidence to support Dr. Siegel’s idea.
Science has proven that hugs enhance and stimulate healing.
Hugs release these “feel good” chemicals in the brain: Dopamine, Seratonin, and Oxytocin. They promote relaxation in the body as they release tension in the body.
Hugging also releases endorphins which relieve pain by blocking pain pathways and soothe aches by increasing circulation to soft tissues.
Frequent hugging also results in improved performance at work and at school. It calms the nervous system alleviating stress by reducing the levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in the blood.
A hug improves heart health as decreasing heart rates help in lowering blood pressure and the risk of cardiac problems.
Hugging boosts the immune system – Researchers exposed participants to the common cold virus and monitored them to assess symptoms and signs of infection. The people who perceived themselves as having good social support and received frequent hugs had fewer or no symptoms and signs of infection. The other group of people who experienced interpersonal conflict and received fewer or no hugs exhibited more symptoms and signs of infection.
Hugging can decrease the stress hormone which inhibits the immune system and increase the hormones and peptides that boost the functioning of immune cells.
“I feel that all healing is related to the ability to give and accept …love.” Dr. Bernie Siegel