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'A hug is often all the brain needs to unlock the stress cycle'

Just in case you ever needed an excuse to wrap your arms around your nearest and dearest, the fact that it might make you (and them) happier and less stressed, is up there with the best of them.

The ultimate feel-good gesture, hugging has measurable neuro-biological benefits, with scientists claiming that ‘arms-around pressure’ is often all the brain needs to unlock the stress cycle, and start producing more ‘happy’ hormones.

Just 20 seconds is apparently enough for this response to kick in, after which you can begin to take advantage of a myriad of health benefits, from elevated feelings of intimacy and self confidence, to social bonding, reduced susceptibility to stress, and even greater resistance to common colds.

Hugs are one of the few actions that can also replace words and keep individuals (particularly couples) in sync even when either one is unable to or doesn’t feel like talking.

If you don’t have a hugger on hand, there is evidence that hugging your dog can have the same effect. Even hugging a pillow might yield some advantages, according to one theory which likens it to "an environmental cue", reminding the brain that it's time to relax.

Given that today is National Hugging Day, there might therefore be something to be said for sometimes trading in the awkward high fives for a more heart-felt squeeze (social etiquette permitting).

A hug is one of those things we don’t realise we need until it’s offered up, making it all the more important to be generous with our arms, and our time, no matter how short both may be!

📸 Photo credit: @lizclimo

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