The Power of a Hug

As a child, if you were, scared, sad, or wanted to celebrate a milestone what was one of the first things you sought? For many, the answer is a hug. A hug is more than just an embrace. A hug can bring feelings of safety, happiness, and more.

Hugging Makes You Feel Good
When someone receives a hug, for most, their body releases the hormone and neurotransmitter, oxytocin, often times referred to as “the love hormone.”

Increased levels of oxytocin have been attributed to happiness and the reduction of stress and anxiety. Not only do increased levels of oxytocin make you feel good mentally, but it can also help make you feel good physically. Increased levels of oxytocin can decrease levels of cortisol; decreased cortisol levels can improve the body’s natural ability to fight illness and boost the immune system.

Hugs Can Increase Bonding
A hug can make a child feel safe if they are scared, injured, or feeling shy when presented with a new environment or situation. A hug can assure them they are ok.

Oxytocin increases levels of contentment, which can lead to higher levels of emotional bonding.  In an interview by NPR, DePauw University psychologist, Matt Hertenstein, stated that “oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding…It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.”

It Can Help with Learning 
As children grow; sensory stimulation is a vital part of their development, both physically and mentally. Sensory stimulation helps to develop a child’s creativity, cognitive abilities, social skills, and the use of their five senses, one of which is touch. Hugging can help a child learn positive social skills as well as teach them empathy, understanding when hugs are wanted/needed.

Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said “we need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

While most kids are receptive to hugs it should be noted that kids who have experienced traumas in their life, whether that be sexual or physical abuse, may be less receptive to a hug but can still benefit from touch. As a parent/caregiver take cues from the child, gauge their reaction, and determine the child’s comfort level. Start slow; you could start with sitting side-by-side on a couch to watch a movie, a gentle pat on the back, or even a high-five. While small gestures, they are positive ways to reassure with touch. The hug may eventually come as trust and comfort levels build.

At Right Turn® we are here to help and support families who have adopted a child or entered into a guardianship in Nebraska. The essence of our organization exists in our commitment to children and families. We strive to provide the support and connections necessary for adoptive and guardianship parents.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.