Have you ever had one of those days where nearly everything is going wrong? Your backpack is half unzipped and your notes fall out into the windy street, you just miss your shuttle and watch it drive away, arrive at your small class of 25 students half an hour late and find everyone staring you down?
In these situations, where do you find your comfort? Napping? Stress eating? Maybe online shopping? For me, all of those things are comforting, but what I crave most is a good hug from someone I care about.
There’s something about a good hug that really just eases my pain. Ever since I started college, my hug to meltdown ratio was horribly unbalanced. It seemed that the less accessible hugs became, the more unbearable my problems were. Before you call me a sensitive snowflake, I will back this all up with actual science on physical touch and its effect on emotions.
Hugs go way beyond our arms—they reach the mind. When we embrace someone, oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”) is released, making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding. “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people,” says Matt Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University.
According to one study, a hug can be good medicine too! In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment. So yes, being hug-less could basically KILL YOU!
Kidding! That’s an extreme, but the findings suggest that isolated, lonely people do tend to have poorer health.
Think about babies for a moment: newborn babies must be swaddled to feel the same comfort they experience after nine months in their studio womb apartments and they also need to be held often for psychological reasons.
Oh, you didn’t know that? Let me take you back to AP Psychology real quick. *puts on glasses for added intellectual vibe*
Babies who don’t receive human contact in their first days or weeks of life often suffer from health problems related to this deprivation. They can exhibit a failure to thrive, a condition seen in orphanages among children who did not receive enough human contact when they were babies. Newborns lacking physical contact with other humans can actually die from this lack of contact, despite being provided with proper nutrition and shelter. As we grow up, these same effects apply. Deprivation due to isolation will cause you to quite literally, lose your mind!
College is hard. College is stressful. College can be extremely lonely. These truths are the reason why hugs are more necessary in this season of our lives more than ever before. A warm embrace is good for the mind, the heart and the soul, so next time you are having a rough day, ask for a hug! If someone you know is having a rough day, just hug him or her! Now, don’t be creepy about it and attack them with no warning, but just show them love if you see it in their eyes.