Science Agrees: Hugs Really Do Make You Feel Better

A new study finds that hugs can help people feel better when they experience conflict

Hugs, the researchers found, were associated with an uptick in positive mood markers and a reduction in negative ones; the opposite was true of relationship conflict.

In plainer English, hugging helped people feel less poorly after some kind of conflict or negative event during their day.

Studies suggest that hugs not only help us feel better - they may also protect us against diseases. And hugs might have a leg up even in this category: Research also suggests that physical touch can prompt beneficial physiological changes, such as reductions in stress-related brain and heart activity and the release of the mood-enhancing hormone oxytocin, Murphy says.

He said, "Interpersonal touch can be defined as touch behaviours for example hugging and holding hands that are used to communicate affection or are generally thought to indicate affection".

Previously, psychologists have proposed that interpersonal touch may protect people from the consequences of psychological stress, particularly stress from interpersonal conflict.

Severe or repeated distress from arguments can build up feelings of anxiety, paranoia, loneliness, and depression.

And the results showed that the more hugs someone took part in, the better they felt, especially when associated with the typical ups and downs of social interactions.

In the new study, Murphy and colleagues focused on hugs - a relatively common support behavior that individuals engage in with a wide range of social partners.

For the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers interviewed more than 400 adults every night for two weeks.

"A very simple, straightforward behaviour - hugging - might be an effective way of supporting both men and women who are experiencing conflict in their relationships", explained Murphy.

"Our results are consistent with the conclusion that both men and women may benefit equally from being hugged on days when conflict occurs", the study reads.

"This research is in its early stages".

A 2015 Carnegie Mellon study found that those who were hugged more had a lower risk of catching colds after being exposed to the virus, Murphy noted. "However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict".

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