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YOUR WELLBEING with Kathryn Luczakiewicz.

IN a world so focused on money and material things, it can be easy to lose sight of the priceless gifts that surround us in our daily lives. If someone said there is something that is totally free, which can make us happier, can release feel-good hormones, help lower blood pressure, can lower stress hormones as well as give us a sense of belonging, wouldn't you want to know more? What I am talking about, if you haven't already guessed, is in fact the simple hug!

It has been scientifically proven that a good hug is the fastest way to get oxytocin - a naturally induced feel-good drug which calms the nervous system in the body and makes us feel better.

Recently a new research study led by Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, showed more evidence about the amazing benefits of the simple hug. The study team asked 404 people how many hugs they received over a two-week period before exposing them to the virus that causes the common cold and then monitored them in quarantine. It showed that the people who had the most hugs had the least severe symptoms. This study also looked at how much social support each person received. It showed that people who felt most supported in their lives and relationships, were most protected from the symptoms of the cold. So this suggests that hugs boost our immune system.

So what better reason to give someone a hug today!

It turned out that those who had the most hugs had lowest severity of cold symptoms.

There was a little more to the study. As well as hugs, they monitored how much social support each person received. Those who felt most supported in their lives and relationships were most protected from the cold. Hugs accounted for a third of the overall effect.

It's well known in science that when we're involved in ongoing personal conflicts with people we're less able to fight off colds and other infections. Have you noticed that? It's presumed that the stress involved in the conflict can suppress the immune system. So the hug study was looking at the opposite effect - emotional, social support; ie support and closeness instead of conflict and distance. While conflicts suppress the immune system, the study implied that hugs boost it. Generally speaking, you can think of it as emotional support, and closeness is good for us while consistent conflict and emotional distance isn't so much.

I love this kind of research. It motivates me to keep spreading the word that we should be nice to one another, help each other, and of course hug each other.

Hugs are easy to do. You just, well, give someone a hug. That's it. Who would have imagined it can be so good for health.

Here's the shocking truth: Hugs boost our happiness levels. And scientific research is there to show this. Basically, a good hug is the fastest way for you to get oxytocin flowing in your body. Oxytocin, also known as the "love drug", calms your nervous system and boosts positive emotions. Here's how a good hug resulting in oxytocin flow affects you: It lowers your blood pressure, |especially helpful if you're feeling anxious; It lowers your cortisol (the stress |hormone), enabling a higher quality of sleep; It can increase your social connec-|tions and a sense of belonging.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2015
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