Benefits Of Hugs: How Many Hugs Do We Need In A Day

Learn how many of them can get your oxytocin flowing and lift your spirits.

Reviewed by Joy Nwokoro, Relationship Coach Joy Nwokoro Joy NwokoroRelationship Coach facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Asmita De MA (English) Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MA Sangita Goel MA linkedin_icon
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Touch is one of the most significant of the five basic senses of the human body. A simple touch, like a hug or resting your head on someone’s shoulder, can make you feel better. So, how many hugs do we need in a day to make ourselves feel confident and happy? The more, the better!

In any relationship, touch is an important love language. Think of a romantic relationship – a soft kiss, the gentle brush of fingers, or a touch on the cheek – such simple gestures mean the world to us. Even in a platonic relationship, something as small as a side hug or a pat on the back lets us know our friends have our back. And we’ve all felt the warmth, connection, and safety in the hug of a parental figure.

The verdict is in – there is nothing as comforting as a hug, especially a bear hug! It can make you feel strong when you are weak, make you smile when you are down, and can let you know that you have someone to support you through the bad times.

However, there is a scientific reason you feel good when you are hugged. Keep reading to know what science has to say about how hugs elevate your day, improve your mental health, and leave you feeling ecstatic!

What Is A Hug?

Wrapping your arms around another person’s body can be defined as a hug. There are several variations of how a person hugs right from a tight hug with arms completely wrapped around another person’s body to a side hug with an arm thrown over the other person’s shoulder.

A hug can manifest in different ways in different cultures. While some might have strict rules about hugging in public, others may see it as a way of social greeting and socialization. For example, in Portugal and Brazil, men often hug each other in greeting or saying goodbye. In many South Asian cultures, this tactile behavior between men is quite common and acceptable. It is, in fact, seen as a sign of brotherhood and camaraderie.

However, in many Arabic or South-East Asian cultures, unrelated or unmarried people hugging might be viewed as immoral and unacceptable.

Among teenagers in the United States, hugging is a common form of saying hello or goodbye.

protip_icon Trivia
The word ‘hug’ is thought to have its origin in 16th century Scandinavia from the Norwegian word ‘hugga,’ which means ‘to comfort’ or ‘console.’

Despite the cultural differences, the truth remains that hugging is a common human interaction, whether done in public or private. Let us explore the different types of hugs prevalent across cultures.

Different Types Of Hugs

People do not hug each other only when they are in love. The different types of hugs also vary based on the relationship between the two people. The way you hug your partner might not be the same as the hug that you share with your parents or your best friends. The most common types of hugs are as follows:

1. The Tight Hug

Two people hugging each other tightly.
Image: Shutterstock

A tight hug or a squeeze is common between people who share a lot of love for each other. Whether the duration of this physical contact is long or short, a squeeze often expresses affection compassion, and fondness for the other person.

While this is a common form of hugging among partners, you might also experience this with close friends and family members you are especially comfortable with. It is an extremely intimate hug that you would barely ever share with strangers you do not trust.

2. The Bear Hug

Much like the tight hug, the bear hug is also commonly seen between partners and friends. It is a sweet hug that often shows that the two people hugging trust each other and feel safe with the other.

In a bear hug, you wrap your arms around another person, resting your face on their chest or shoulders, and feel relaxed and happy. This type of comforting hug is not necessarily romantic but can be a way of expressing empathy, intimacy and care.

3. The Long Hug

A long and strong hug is often an expression of protection, kindness, love, and tenderness. You would share this with your close family, friends, and partner, but it is not absolutely out of place to share it with a stranger who might be a comforting presence in a certain situation.

4. The Back Hug

A smiling woman hugging her partner from behind while her partner is cutting vegetables.
Image: Shutterstock

This might be a hug that is exclusively shared between partners. It shows a certain level of trust and care only common among two people in love with each other. A back hug is especially intimate because you are trusting the other person to care for you while not being able to see them.

The back hug is also often referred to as the naughty hug for the reason you would not entirely know who is hugging from behind. Nevertheless, it is an extremely personal and close iteration of a hug.

5. The Side Hug

Two people smiling while giving each other a side hug.
Image: Shutterstock

A side hug is when you put your arms around another person’s shoulder in a gesture that is similar to a full-blown hug but still has some distance between the bodies. The side hug is less intimate or romantic and is often shared between friends and acquaintances.

It is common to side hug each other in greeting as well as while posing for photographs. It is not necessarily seen as a hug that expresses a certain type of emotion for another person.

Whatever be the type of a hug, the act of hugging has several wonderful benefits. Let us find out what they are!

Advantages Of Hugging

Besides being a wonderful gesture, hugs also have several real benefits that are both physical and psychological. Hugging keeps us healthier and happier in the five following ways.

1. Hugs Reduce Stress

A girl child feeling less stressed after hugging her mom.
Image: Shutterstock

Hugs are incredible ways of relieving stress. If someone you love is stressed out, they most likely need a hug. When you show a person your support and care through touch, it can automatically reduce their feeling of discomfort or pain.

The act of hugging another person can make the person giving a hug feel better too. In a study, 20 heterosexual men were given electric shocks while their female partners held their arms (1). During the experiment, women’s stress receptors showed reduced activity while the part of their brain associated with maternal behavior showed increased activity. The response to hugging is deemed to be similar to the responses seen in this study.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Hugs can reduce stress via the “deep pressure” mechanism. The pressure felt by sensory receptors on receiving a hug sends a signal of being safe to the autonomic nervous system. This counters the anxiety caused by the activation of the fight-or-flight response in a stressful situation.

2. Hugs Can Keep You From Falling Sick

In a study, researchers found that among the 400 participants, those who had a stronger support system and received more hugs had lower chances of falling sick (2).

Additionally, those who did fall sick showed less severe symptoms when their support system was larger and more present. This benefit can also be related to the stress-reducing effect of a good, loving hug.

3. Hugs Can Keep Your Heart Healthier

In another study, the participants were divided into two groups. One group of partners held hands for 10 minutes, followed by a 20-second hug. The second group sat in silence for 10 minutes and then for another 20 seconds.

When both groups were given a public speaking task after this activity, the partners from the first group showed lower blood pressure and a lower increase in heart rate than those from the second group (3).

This was comparable among men and women bringing us to the conclusion that hugging can help you function better in stressful situations while keeping your heart in better health.

4. Hugs Make You Happier

A girl hugging her mother from behind while they both smile out of happiness.
Image: Shutterstock

Biologically, hugs can increase the release of a hormone called oxytocin (4). Known by several aliases such as the love hormone or the cuddle chemical, oxytocin is released when you sit close to someone you love, or touch or hug them.

This hormone is associated with less stress and more happiness. It reduces the stress hormone nor-epinephrine while reducing your blood pressure. Some animal studies show that it also releases serotonin, known as the “happy hormone,” which elevates your mood and dispels feelings of anger and loneliness (5).

5. Hugs Are Responsible For A Higher Self Esteem

When you were a child, hugs often came to mean love, affection, respect, and validation. Therefore, from an early age, we associated tactile expressions of love with our self-worth.

As adults, whenever we receive hugs from our loved ones, they add to our feeling of self-worth. This, in turn, helps us maintain a higher sense of self-esteem and confidence in our daily lives.

Jasmine, a blogger, writes about her affinity for hugs. She points out that there are people who do not like hugs at all while there are others who are not comfortable with hugs specifically from the opposite gender. She also makes a note of the weird huggers and how these creepy ones are the reason why people have come to dislike hugs. She added, “You see, hugs are a big part of the way I communicate. If I’m happy to see you, I hug you. If I love you, I hug you. If you’re hurting, I gently hug you tight. If you’re happy, I excitedly hug you. If I’m meeting you for the first time, a hug expresses my openness, acceptance and pleasure at being introduced to you (i).”

With all these myriad benefits of hugging, we must ask the question how many hugs do we need a day?

How Many Hugs Do We Need In A Day?

Famous family therapist Virginia Satir is often quoted as saying that we need 12 hugs a day. In fact, given that hugging has so many valuable benefits, we need to get as many of them as possible.

However, at least four hugs a day are important to keep us feeling good about ourselves, ward off stress, and stay healthy both physically and mentally. On a normal day, you should not settle for less than eight hugs because that’s how many many hugs you do need in a day to feel loved and cared for!

Infographic: 5 Health Benefits Of Hugs

A hug from the right person has the power to turn a bad day into a good one. From reducing stress and boosting your mood to enhancing your immune function, this simple gesture has a host of physiological and psychological benefits. Check out the infographic below to learn more.

5 health benefits of hugs (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

So, how many hugs do we need a day? There is no such thing as too many hugs! A hug could instantly make everything feel right and give you the much-needed boost to get through a difficult day. We have discussed how hugs have several physical and emotional benefits. They also help you communicate emotions that are too overwhelming to be put into words.

In a world where you wake up to bad news every morning, hugs feel like the only solution to keep us going. The best thing about them is they are free! So go, grab hold of your special people, and hug them right now!

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you don’t get enough hugs?

Not getting enough hugs may lead to touch deprivation if you don’t experience other forms of physical touch and cause depression. Children may develop communication disorders, aggression, and eating disorders if they don’t get enough positive physical touch from their caregivers (6).

Is it normal to crave a hug?

Yes. It is completely normal to long for human touch and hugs, especially if you have been touch-deprived for a while.

Why do guys hug from behind?

Guys hug from behind to express their feelings of protectiveness towards their partners, initiate a spontaneous intimate move, get into a dominant position and confirm how much their partner trusts him and surrenders to him, and maintain a physical touch going while allowing for movement.

What’s the difference between a hug and a cuddle?

A hug is generally a brief embrace with the arms around another person. Hugs can be very intimate or casual and friendly, depending on the type of embrace and its duration. A cuddle, on the other hand, is a more prolonged and intimate touch, generally between couples, that can be done in different positions such as spooning, huddling, leaning on each other, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Touch is one of our significant five senses that help us be aware and feel comfortable in the world around us.
  • Hugs, whether romantic, platonic, friendly, or parental, give you that feeling of comfort and security.
  • Hugs can convey a range of emotions, while reducing stress and boosting your overall well-being.
how many hugs do we need a day

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Did you know that cuddling can actually improve your mental health? It’s true! Check out this video to learn about the six amazing benefits cuddling can have on your mind and well-being.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Neural correlates of giving support to a loved one,
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22071630/
  2. Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness,
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25526910/
  3. Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity,
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15206831/
  4. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women,
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15740822/
  5. Organizational effects of oxytocin on serotonin innervation,
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21594870/
  6. Touch Deprivation
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306108820_Touch_Deprivation
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Joy Nwokoro

Joy NwokoroRelationship Coach

Joy Nwokoro is a Christian relationship and marriage speaker, counselor, and coach. Although she studied English and Literature at the Abia State University in Nigeria, she was called over a decade ago to help singles and married people build and nurture healthy relationships and marriages that will make them feel fulfilled and satisfied. With 10 years of experience, she has...read full bio

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