This week marks Mental Health Awareness week. It's a time to reflect on taking stock of your own mental health and what you can do to self-care but also how you can provide others with support who may be struggling.
One obvious and simple way to immediately help someone is by offering a hug. Hugs are, of course, instantly comforting but research has previously shown that hugging does in fact have many physiological benefits that can positively impact your health and mood whether you’re the giver or the receiver.
We spoke to Isabel Leming, Senior TMS Technician at the clinic Smart TMS, to find out what the power of a simple hug actually is..
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, trust, intimacy and bonding.
Oxytocin also causes us to feel more relaxed, decreasing tension and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for high blood pressure and heart disease. As hugs decrease these levels, it is suggested that regular hugs could eventually protect against heart disease.
Hugging also increase levels of dopamine, responsible for regulating our emotional response and reward circuit in the brain, which evidence reveals is low in people with mood disorders such as depression.
Serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood which has also been linked to depression also increases when we hug someone meaning your mood can instantly be improved just by the physical act of it.
The boost of hormones such as Oxytocin, Cortisol and Serotonin ultimately make us feel better which can really help if you’re feeling stressed out. By taking the time to hug someone, even just for a minute, it allows you time to calm down and know that you are supported by someone.