There’s really nothing like the power of a big supportive hug. The body reads a sense of caring in the human touch. When we’re hugged we sense that on a deep level, we are not alone. In some ways it’s a shame that in our relationships with healing professionals hugging is often advised against. There are so many wonderful stories where hugging has been a healing modality.

The Science and Practice of a Hug

In one study published in Nature Communications, researchers injected the hormone Oxytocin in older mice with muscle damage. After nine days, the older mice healed faster than the younger, more strapping, mice. These older mice could repair muscle damage up to 80 percent better than the younger mice.

There is real biological power in the simple act of a hug. It can melt away the stress from a day. It can lend itself to repairing emotional wounds.

A hug has the power to release Oxytocin, which sets us up to feel more balanced and soothed the moment we do it. It can strengthen relationships and lend itself toward forgiveness. If you give a hug to another person until both bodies relax, it also allows you to feel more connected, as now your nervous systems are aligned.

Try: At some point throughout the day, see if there’s someone you can hug. This can be a friend, your partner, a child, or even a pet. Bring mindfulness to it: Be aware of the sensation of the hug, what emotions are present, and what thoughts arise.

If there’s a barrier to hugging or you don’t have someone you feel comfortable doing so in the moment, it’s not all lost. Studies show that imagining actions stimulates the same parts of the brain as actually doing them. If you don’t have someone to hug at home, imagine hugging another person, hug yourself, or perhaps set the intention to hug others more often.

The point here is to practice nurturing the release of this natural antidepressant.

You likely know this to be true, but test it out during this time and see what you notice.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
Elisha Goldstein

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and conducts a private practice in West Los Angeles. He is author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books, 2015), The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).


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