Until recently, I never really appreciated the true value of hugging. I was privileged enough to grow up in an environment full of love and affection where hugging was a big part of this exchange; I took it for granted until life came and took it away from me for a while.
However, I still didn’t realize a hug’s effect on people until I attended a meditation seminar. It was a small group of attendants; me, along with four other women, all strangers among each other. Three out of the four were more or less my age, late 20s early 30s. The other one was in her middle 40s.
From the very first minutes of the session, I got the feeling it was going to be a different type of meditation. After the instructor introduced himself along with his brief story that brought him to the steps of mindfulness and spiritualism, he presented the steps of his method:
- We started with body and space awareness where we were instructed to move loosely, feel every step and slightly try to dance. All of us followed except from the older woman who confessed that she had never danced in her life sober!
- After releasing some energy and started warming up our bodies we proceeded with tension release process by shaking our hands and legs while standing. I hadn’t done this before so it was very interesting. It reminded me of some African dances where you have to shake all over your body. Damn it was good! We were shaking for 15 minutes at least and I really felt better than every mindfulness thingy I had ever tried!
- The next step included the famous corpse pose in yoga, or savasana for the yoga savy ones. This helped cool down our breathing and focus on our breathing. Basically this was the only element that resembled the traditional meditation.
- After we repeated the previous steps one more time, the instructor encouraged us to form a circle and picked one of us to enter the center so that this person will start hugging the rest. And the circle moved on to the next person who entered in the center, hugging the rest. And so on..
From this time on, what happened in this session was a revelation to me. Everybody starting crying and kept hugging each other. We were smiling and crying on the same time. It was divine. The older lady started sobbing in our surprise. She sincerely shared she hadn’t felt like that for ages and felt completely reborn. She hadn’t hug someone the way we did for 10 years! .
So what are the magic Ingredients of a hug? What happens in our body’s chemistry? I had to research and examine the effects of this amazing process.
1. Increases bonding
Hugging can cause a release of oxytocin, one of the hormones (along with serotonin and dopamin) connected to happiness. The release of this hormone causes a rise in feelings of commitment and intimacy as we share feelings for each other through hugging.
2. Relieves Pain and Relaxes the Body
Hugging is also associated with the release of endorphins which help to alleviate pain and anxiety by blocking the pain pathways.
3. Increases Empathy & Understanding
A warm hug improves exchange of feelings across the bioenergetics field generated by the heart, causing us to empathize with the other person. This builds trust between people in a way that words simply cannot.
4. Elevates mood
Hugging increases the serotonin levels in the brain, that helps boost your mood and self esteem. It is a hormone that flows in our brain when we feel important or significant and its absence can cause feelings of loneliness and depression.
5. Alleviates stress
Hugging releases cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the blood which causes the mind to calm down. A research even showed that well-hugged babies are less stressed than less-hugged adults.
After all, hugging seems to be almost as important as breathing. It has become even a profession under the name of professional cuddler!
The divine power of a hug is a powerful as a drug; it can change our whole brain chemistry.
So whenever the chance let’s dive into it and hug each other with all our heart!