Hugs Benefit Your Emotional Health

Hugs don't just feel good; they're also a very healthy part of our lives! Learn about the important benefits of hugs.
Hugs Benefit Your Emotional Health
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Hugs benefit our emotional health indeed. They’re definitely the kind of non-verbal communication that we should all practice more often with those who are closest to us.

We’re talking about the most widespread gesture in the world. Hugs even transcend our own species.

Animals also understand hugs, that is, skin-to-skin contact, as a way to connect with another member of their social group. This basic gesture communicates a sense of safety and closeness and creates bonds between members.

Just as this form of touch makes them feel well, so do hugs benefit our emotional health.

We could say then that hugs, when understood as physical proximity, are universal. And we all, in a way, speak this emotional language.

Let’s learn a little more about this.

1. Physical Closeness as a Form of Growth

There are nuances to the several aspects of hugging we’ve undoubtedly personally experienced.

For example, hugs benefit our psychological health as long as they come from people whom we have a positive and rewarding bond with. However, the physical closeness of a stranger is often seen as a threat.

Hugs benefit our social health too. When you hug someone or that person hugs you, the relationship between you two becomes stronger. This is so basic that it’s also a very healthy source of personal growth.

We always value our independence, our ability to improve ourselves and our ability to enjoy our moments of solitude. However, no one can deny that these meaningful gestures make us feel well.

We’re social beings, after all. Hence, we need this kind of language to feel that we’re connected to someone and something, like a family or a group of friends.

2. Hugs Benefit Our Brains, Especially in Early Childhood

Children who are hugged and feel the warmth of their parents from the moment they’re born grow with greater maturity and emotional balance.

The human brain matures from “inside to outside” and “back to front.” This means that the brain structures that require more attention in a newborn are those related to emotions.

When a baby doesn’t feel fear or feels safe and loved at all times, this makes structures such as the hippocampus and the cerebral amygdala develop without the presence of stress associated with the feeling of abandonment. This is how hugs benefit our brain.

Therefore, being hugged by our parents from birth to the age of 3 is fundamental to our later emotional development.

3. When Words Don’t Come Out, Let Hugs Save You

There are times when our emotions control us. For instance, we may be arguing with someone we love, and sometimes we end up unintentionally saying something that hurts them, which we later regret.

When we’re aware that words are no longer useful in this situation and that we’ve messed things up, we can make use of hugs and let them save us.

4. We All Know How to Hug, but We Don’t Always Do It

There are many people who like being hugged but don’t always have the initiative to do it.

Perhaps it’s because of simple shyness or indecision. On the other hand, maybe it’s due to not knowing how to break the ice to get to a position in the relationship where hugging isn’t awkward.

When it comes to hugging, there’s one simple rule: if you feel like it, if you need it and if you want it, then do it.

After all, there’s nothing like giving about five hugs a day!

Embracing our parents, partner, children and friends when they’re having a difficult day is always helpful and comforting not only for them but also for us.

5. Hugging Takes Care of Our Emotional Health

Hugs also have a strong presence in the animal world. However, animals use them quite differently from human beings. For instance, animals don’t use hugs to greet or say goodbye to each other. They seek closeness to unite and as a reinforcement of a social bond.

We should also use them for this purpose. This is how we could calm many fears, reduce stress and control anxiety much better.

A hug from a person we love helps us to be more present. In other words, it helps us to enjoy the here and now, which leaves no room for fear.

Make hugs a regular part of your life and let them release endorphins and oxytocin to further increase the intensity of the moment.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Chew, J. (2012). Emotional Disconnection Disorder Threatens Marriages, MU Researcher Says. MU News Bureau.
  • MU News Bureau. (2011). Having Trouble Sharing or Understanding Emotions? MU Researcher Believes Affection Could Help. MU News Bureau.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.