From our moment of birth until we take our last breaths, we need hugs. The simple act of an embrace has profound psychological and physical effects that are essential for our survival. It has long been observed that people who receive hugs and cuddles from their spouses, children or even their pets live longer and recover from illness faster. Scientific studies reveal that hugs work by producing specific beneficial chemical reactions in the brain and body. Here are just a few ways hugs make life better for aging adults and us all.
Why is Hugging Healthy? Here are the Many Benefits of Hugging
- Hugs boost dopamine, serotonin and cortisone levels; all of these chemicals alleviate negative emotions like loneliness and anger, and replace them with feelings of joy, well-being, pleasure and contentment. They also increase the production of oxytocin, a powerful, healing hormone associated with bonding, love and trust. Hugs are so effective that hug therapy is even used in clinical settings to treat depression.
- Hugs strengthen the immune system, balance the parasympathetic nervous system, and regulate white blood cell production.
- A hug relaxes muscles and releases bodily tension. It increases circulation to soft tissues and reduces pain.
- Hugging lowers both blood pressure and heart rate. It can improve glucose metabolism and improve sleep quality.
- The most obvious benefits of hugging don’t require a scientific study. Hugs make us feel loved, safe and secure. They boost our self-esteem, and keep us connected to the world around us.
How Hugs Benefit Seniors in Assisted Living
Sadly, of all age groups, seniors are the least likely to be hugged, and they need hugs even more as years go by. The chemical changes produced by hugging can be a powerful tool for deterring the effects of age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer. In assisted living settings, many seniors lose the option of daily contact with friends and family members. They have often lost their spouses or lifelong friends, and health problems, disabilities or depression may prevent them from reaching out to strangers. For these reasons, depression and isolation are especially common, but a few hugs a day could prevent or even reverse their despair, and allow them to live fuller, happier lives.
We Believe in Hugs
At Providence Care, we aim to harness the power of therapeutic touch. Through our unique ROSE program, we ensure every client’s need for social participation and physical touch is addressed by positive interactions, reassurance and plenty of sincere, caring hugs.