Can Hugs Make You Happier?

A group of scientists is looking at this question—you may like what they’re finding.

Posted in , Jan 3, 2019

The healing power of hugs

Could you use a hug? The question alone evokes the image of warmth, closeness and the kind of love and support that feels like it’s transmitted from one person to another by osmosis.

A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has begun to explore the science behind why hugs can have such a calming, happiness-sparking effect. In research that was published in October, the authors found regular hugs to increase overall happiness, support resilience during challenging times and even improve overall health and social relationships.

Previous research had focused on the impact of hugging in romantic relationships, but this study represents an emerging field that is exploring the power of hugging in different social circles, like friends. Importantly, the hugs studied were all consensual.

“This research is in its early stages,” Michael Murray, a co-author of the study said in a statement. “However,” he continued, “our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to someone enduring relationship conflict.”

This means that after a tough day at work, following a tense conversation between friends or at a lonely moment, the gesture of a hug from someone who cares goes a long way. Study participants who had hard days and received hugs felt less negative emotion and more positive emotion than participants who did not receive hugs. The hugged participants even reported fewer bad moods the following day as well.

The study is not the final word on this topic—Murray said future research will delve more deeply into when, how and for whom hugs are most helpful. But in the meantime, if you’re the hugging type, you can smile at the thought that your embrace can so profoundly benefit the people in your life.

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