By Sunny Simon

I leaned in offering my friend the comfort of a warm hug telling her I’d see her soon. We’d spent an hour together over coffee. She was going through a rough patch and needed a listening ear. Let’s face it; there is no better remedy to help heal the hurts than attentive compassion coupled with an embrace.

As I walked to my car I thought about the power of a hug. Did you know that studies conducted on the human touch revealed that both the “toucher” and the “touchee” experience actual physiological benefits from human contact? In techie talk, according to researcher Dr. Dolores Krieger it goes like this: red blood cells carry hemoglobin, a substance transporting oxygen to the body tissue. When one person lays hands on the other, the hemoglobin levels in the blood stream of both parties increases. This can aid the healing process. Hugging also causes our muscles to relax which can help ease away the stress we experience during the day.

Want to develop a stronger relationship? Hug more! There is a scientific reason why active hugging leads to bonding. It produces that awesome feel good hormone oxytocin, also dubbed as the cuddle chemical. As in the embrace exchanged between myself and my friend, a hug also increases empathy and understanding. When words fail, hugging telegraphs a message the heart understands.

Hit by a bout of the blues? Enfold yourself in a strong hug from a loved one, or initiate a little one-on-one cuddle time with your pet. More scientific data: Hugging increases the production of serotonin from your brain which can elevate both your mood and your self esteem.
Hugs are beneficial for individuals of all ages but studies show hugging becomes even more important as we age. Hugging decreases stress hormones which inhibit the immune system, so get in the habit of doling out daily hugs.

One final pointer, when you go in for a hug, do it right. Make it a hearty embrace. In order to be beneficial, a hug must last for at least 20 seconds.

High fives are great but hugs are healing. They build confidence and spread joy. By strengthening bonds and showing understanding we can open up our hearts to others. So hug your kid, hug your dog and hug a senior. If you’re feeling brave, hug a stranger. And next time we meet, forget the handshake, let’s hug!

Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog,