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How to Hug (and the science behind it)

As the first vaccinated holiday season during the pandemic began is upon us, we must ask ourselves: did we forget how to hug? Did we ever truly know how??

New research conducted by Anna Dueren from the University of London gives us some answers on how to give the perfect hug. Participants in this study were blindfolded and allowed themselves to be hugged by strangers. Hugs that lasted for only 1 second provided the least positive feelings (pleasure, arousal, and sense of control), while hugs that lasted 5 to 10 seconds gave participants the bigger boost. Hugs that used tightly crisscrossed arms were the safest bet, as hugs where one person’s arms encircle the waist and the other’s encircle the neck were considered to be more suitable for romantic partners, or were more gender-dependent.

If being hugged for 10 seconds by a someone, let alone a stranger, sounds like your worst nightmare, then hear this:

Hugging releases oxytocin, which reduces stress and boosts happiness (especially in women). Hugging enhances communication with others. Hugging reduces pain and anxiety. Hugging may boost your heart health. And (if you’re vaccinated against COVID-19), hugs can actually protect you against illness.

Frequent hugs are optimal for living a happy and healthy life. While it may be easier to receive the benefits of hugging if you’re in a romantic relationship, don’t be shy to touch and hug others (with consent!)—it just may increase your mental and physical health.

We are increasingly becoming a touch-deprived world in so many ways. So when you get the chance, go in for the long hug.

By: Carolyn Cutillo

Mental Health Counseling Intern

Cirino, E. (2018, April 11). Why you should get (and give) more hugs. Healthline. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from

Dueren, A. L., Vafeiadou, A., Edgar, C., & Banissy, M. J. (2021). The influence of duration, arm crossing style, gender, and emotional closeness on hugging behaviour. Acta Psychologica, 221, 103441.

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