How Hugging Can Make You Healthy! by Nkechi Njaka

Happy Valentines Day! As many of you know, I have a background in neuroscience and my experience in fashion largely complements the Wellness & Lifestyle consultancy work that I do. Something that has always intrigued me, especially around the time of Valentine’s Day, is the powerful effect that love has on mood and subsequently, our wellbeing.

I mean, who doesn’t love love? Especially, on the day of Valentine’s Day? Even the most bitter of us, who lost sleep last night in anxious preparation of an anti-Valentine’s Day event, still at the heart of her heart loves love and knows with every fiber of her being that love and happiness are inextricably linked.

Well I am here to tell you that there is neuroscienctific evidence for this positive correlation.  And that joining the mainstream masses in an overly capitalized Hallmark Holiday could increase your mood, even if you love in a non-romantic way.

Scientists have long been working to show how and even prove that love gives us health benefits beyond the obvious advantageous security of always having a date for Valentine’s Day. Researchers are not yet able to determine that romance trumps close bestfriendships or an affectionate/adoring family when it comes to health and wellness. But researchers are finding that sex, partnership, intimacy and caring for another all seem to build a case for making us stronger with health benefits that range from improved healing and management over chronic illnesses (prevention). That means a longer life of love, laughter and shopping!

How can we practice this on the daily….or even today?

Doctors at the University of North Carolina have found that hugging may result in dramatically lower blood pressure as a result of boosting blood levels of oxytocin, the relaxing ‘cuddly’ hormone that plays a key role in orgasms. Oxytocin is linked attachment and is a factor in bonding and monogamous pairing.

In their fascinating study, researchers found that frequent daily hugging among couples had enormous effects on the release of oxytocin in women! The women with the highest oxytocin levels had systolic blood pressure that was 10 mm/Hg lower than women with low oxytocin levels—an improvement similar to the effect of many leading blood pressure medications, says Kathleen Light, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at UNC and one of the study’s authors. Wow. It’s amazing that something as simple as hugging can do that.

Since there is growing evidence that love improves long-term health and wellness, I would say that even if celebrating Valentines Day is merely a reminder to value love, it is worth celebrating!

{All Photography by Glass Jar Photography}

by Nkechi Njaka


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