A simple act of affection goes a long way in keeping your relationship happy and healthy.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much of a positive impact a single hug can have – especially if you’re in a long-term relationship.
Today, January 21, marks National Hug Day – a date designed to celebrate the simple act of affection.
Why hugging is so important for relationships?
Sometimes a hug with a partner is worth a thousand words.
Hugging is a physical interaction so immediately that helps establish intimacy and a close connection.
Dr Pam says, “Cuddles and affection are incredibly important to your relationship.
“They make you feel emotionally connected to each other – and when we’re under so much stress in our daily lives that’s really important.”
Dr Tony also says that hugging is important at all ages.
He adds, “If you think about it, the sense of touch is one of the first senses we experience when we are born. Touch and hugging is associated with calming a crying baby.
“We can easily postulate that it is the number one sense associated with health and wellbeing.”
What impact does hugging have on the body?
Hugging feels great – and there’s science behind it, too.
And it’s all down to one feel-good hormone.
Dr Pam says, “When you have physical contact through cuddles your body produces the love and well-being hormone oxytocin.
“Oxytocin makes you feel good around your partner and that feel-good effect is carried with you after physical contact.”
Not only that, but hugging has also be found to improve your immune system, too.
One study looked at the types of sickness and infections that are more susceptible to stressed individuals and those with increased cortisol levels.
The researchers found that people who experienced hugs more frequently were less likely to get sick and that even if they did get sick their symptoms were less intense.
Hugging can also help to lower stress levels.
Dr Tony says, “Studies have shown that hugging lowers cortisol levels. This, in turn, lowers stress (health benefit) and improves sleep (another health benefit).
“From a psychological perspective, hugging can provide a sense of safety. Think about the first thing you want to do with someone who is grieving. You want to give them a hug.”
What different types of hug mean
According to Dr Pam, a hug can reveal a range of emotions. It can be sensitive, playful, caring, sweet and even sexy.
The bear hug: “A big bear hug shows his protective impulse at that moment. He’s feeling big and manly, and wants to be in charge,” explains Dr Pam.
The back pat: She adds, “Beware the pat on the back though, that’s incredibly platonic and doesn’t bode well for your romance!”
The caress: “Finally,” reveals Dr Pam, “I think you know what a sexy caress means – yup, he’s in the mood.”
How to get your partner to be more affectionate
Pam says, “Unfortunately many men aren’t naturally affectionate. We know they can be because we see the big bear hugs they give each other on the footie-pitch after a goal.
“But off the pitch many shrug-off hugs because physical contact has been off-limits since when they were children. And they repeatedly get that message as they grow up.”
But Pam says it’s not all doom and gloom. You can encourage more physical affection – like hugging – in a few simple ways.
She adds, “First off, don’t ask him to cuddle you, but instead snuggle up to him, and say something nice about him. He’ll equate you being near to him with getting a compliment. And compliments feel good.
“Next, make sure you touch him at critical points in the day like when you say goodbye, or hello, as you kiss his lips stroke his shoulders. That reassuring touch is bonding and stimulates him wanting to give it back to you.
“Finally, whenever he touches you by accident – or even if he touches you on purpose – again use that technique of snuggling up and saying something nice so he associates that good feeling with touching you.”