I am a hugger. Not a tree hugger. Don’t get me wrong, I like trees, but I like people more. Nothing makes my day, like a hug. If I could make a living hugging people, I would do it. As a therapist, I do my best to give verbal hugs with encouraging words, but nothing beats the health benefits of a double-arm squeeze. When I was growing up, nothing calmed my anxiety more after a bad day at school than a hug from my mom. When my boys were babies, the feeling of their tiny arms wrapped around my neck as I rocked them to sleep was nothing short of pure bliss.

Hugs are a wonderful, powerful mood-altering intervention. I can be having a horrible day, and then someone hugs me; my son, my husband, my friend. While the hugger may vary, the impact is consistent. I smile. I relax a little. Some stress melts away. Can you relate? Have you ever wondered why a little hug can make such a big difference? Hugging produces a powerful reaction, not just emotionally, but physiologically as well. There is a hormone called oxytocin that’s released during a hug. It’s known as the “love” or “bonding” hormone. Oxytocin production is related to many benefits that are congruent with mental and emotional health – connection to others, empathy, trust, generosity, happiness, contentment. As these increase, depression and anxiety decrease. Feeling down? Hug someone. While it hasn’t been proven (yet), I’m also thinking, more hugs = more hope. Stands to reason.

I did some research on exactly how many hugs a day we need to experience a greater sense of health and wellness. I turned up several studies that cited the number of 8 hugs per day, as needed to reap the maximum benefits of oxytocin production. Why is 8 the magic number? I couldn’t find any research that explained why 8, but I do know that the more hugs I give and receive in a single day, the better I feel. What about you?

What if getting 8 hugs a day became a priority, along with getting 8 hours of sleep? Would life get a little easier? I think so. Try it, and come back and post your experience here – I would love to hear your hug story. To get you started, check out this video about someone who took the power of hugs seriously!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4

Hope whispers, hug someone today!