Recently, I saw an old friend for the first time in many years. I don’t know when our next visit will be, so before we parted, I made sure to give him a good, long hug.
Have you been hugged lately? A quick touch and go? Most hugs are like that. A fast embrace, an awkward clinch, almost as if we were embarrassed to touch one another.
According to The Happiness Project author, Gretchen Rubin, to be effective, hugs must last at least six seconds. Let me ask the question again. Have you been hugged lately…for at least six seconds?
I’d bet the answer is “No,” but research is finding that hugs that last six seconds or longer stimulate serotonin and oxytocin production. Those are the feel-good chemicals, folks.
Writer THINK-IST on Medium states that “an article from the UK’s Daily Mail suggests regular embraces can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress and fatigue, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, fight infection and ease depression.”
The longer the hug, the higher the flow of oxytocin which lowers cortisol levels and boosts our sense of well-being and belonging, too.
It’s easier for me in Chile because my friends and I greet with a hug and a kiss on the right cheek. The Chilean culture in general is more de piel, touchy-feely, than people in the US. Maybe that’s one source of my feeling content in Chile?
I once dated a guy who had a theory that people are born with a quota of laughs. He claimed that most of us never come near to using up all of them.
I wonder if the same thing is true for hugs. Family therapist Virginia Satir’s theory is that “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
Many of us don’t get hugged at all. Others only receive that brief grasp that I talked about earlier. If I was born with a quota, I’m woefully under it. I’m still working my way up to survival level, and I suspect that I’m not alone.