Dr. Mayo encourages us to give this gift that keeps on giving!
After the Christmas holiday, many of us have to practice more frugality to recover from gift giving…but just because we have to be frugal, doesn’t mean we have to stop giving gifts to others. In fact, there is a gift that can be even more powerful than all of the gifts we gave during Christmas and it’s free! It’s been researched extensively and has a number of health benefits. Let’s see if you can guess this gift based on the studies conducted on it.
In 2005, the University of North Carolina found premenopausal women who received this gift had lower blood pressure and higher oxytocin levels than those who didn’t receive this gift, or as much of this gift.
Similarly, a study of postpartum mothers conducted by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 2011 found that those who received this gift more frequently had higher oxytocin levels, which was associated with higher cardiovascular health and less reactivity to stress. This doesn’t just apply to women, either.
Carnegie Mellon University conducted an examination in 2015, finding that over 400 adult participants who received this gift had a reduced vulnerability to the common cold. They also found more of these same results with children. Can you guess what this gift is?
Hugs are the powerful gift that affects us in so many ways. Naturally skin contact is essential for our overall well-being. What might sound weirder is that our skin actually craves this contact; it gets “hungry”, especially when we’re stressed.
When stressed, our body produces cortisol (the stress hormone), making us more susceptible to illness, more so if it’s chronic and severe. But when we get hugs, our body releases oxytocin (you have heard me talk about this before), which binds us to people, keeps us healthy, and puts us in a relaxed state. For real, hugs can be a huge factor in preventing us from getting sick (more likely if we have social support to back them up).
In fact, Sheldon Cohen, one of the Carnegie Mellon researchers who conducted the study on 400 adults, mentioned that hugging protects people under stress from increased risk for colds and increases our sense of intimacy, especially when facing hardships. Furthermore, it decreases our heart rate, feelings of anger and sadness, and reduces cortisol.
For our body to get the maximum effect, however, we need to hug people at least 5-7 times a day, for at least six seconds. Hopefully this doesn’t get too awkward. It takes this long for our bodies to fully absorb the benefits, essentially, to register skin contact and release the right amount of oxytocin and serotonin to promote bonding and boost our mood. Side-hugs don’t count; they have to be a solid embrace. Interestingly, hugs from strangers can be helpful, but I wouldn’t recommend asking a lot of strangers for hugs. You have to know whether or not people are comfortable with this…at the same time, desperate times call for desperate measures.
“In saying this, I have to mention, I gave my college students a lot of hugs this semester. It helps.” – Dr. Mayo
Idea/Concept: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Dr. Mayo
Anchor: Dr. Mayo
Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by UPMC Susquehanna, Laurel Health Centers