Though some of us may claim not to be the hugging type, there's nothing you can do to stop the positive, hormonal effects that occur once you lock yourself in a warm embrace. Unless of course you're being hugged by the spawn of Satan, someone you loathe entirely, or a person offering unwanted free hugs to passers In all other instances, we tend to hug for an average of three seconds, but if you were willing to hold on for a little longer, say 20 seconds, the benefits will be tenfold.
Oxytocin is one of our loveliest, most powerful hormones. But it's one that we don't produce without some element of stimulation. Studies have shown that this feel good chemical comes to life when gazing into the eye of your canine companion but it's at its most potent in our bodies when we experience human to human physical contact for at least 20 seconds, in the form of a hug. It's particularly strong when that person is a loved one, but even if you're having a crap day, hugging someone you trust can be hugely powerful.
A Psychotherapist named Virginia Satir is famously quoted as concluding that: "We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance, and we need 12 hugs a day for growth."
Other studies have suggested that if you want to feel happier in your day to day life, you ought to be hugging up to eight times per day. Not only will you experience oxytocin, but you'll also reduce your blood pressure and your cortisol (the nasty stress/anxiety hormone), particularly if you're a woman. Interestingly, women benefited more than men in this instance. Further conclusions from this particular study in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine say that this will reduce our risk of heart disease.
Reported by the Mail Online, this is how it works: "The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centers called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve winds its way through the body and is connected to some organs, including the heart. It is also connected to oxytocin receptors. One theory is that stimulation of the vagus triggers an increase in oxytocin, which in turn leads to the cascade of health benefits."
So, apart from getting closer to a loved one, those who shy away from snuggling ought to give cuddle therapy a try.