What is it about a hug?

It’s a standoff situation – your partner on one side of that line & you on the other. That line might be invisible, but it feels like an insurmountable cliff.


There are times that our self-righteous egos sit on a high horse and want to hold on to the ‘Damn it, I am right’ banner a while longer. What is it about touch and hugs specifically that affect us? What happens without our conscious control? The choice to finally step in for the hug is a huge choice because in the back of your brain, you know that you will feel just a little better soon (staying angry means you have to avoid feeling better – hee hee).


Why when you hold on tight for just a little while, then a little longer do you start to relax just a bit and see that cliff as a smaller hill to climb? The situation has not magically resolved itself, but a little of the weight on your shoulders is a bit lighter.


How about those snuggles with little cuddly loves in your life? Or a hug from a close friend when you are scared?




The answer is Oxytocin – not oxycontin, but it does make you feel good. We feel love, affection and trust when the hormone oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus at the center of the brain.


So cool that a hug with someone you love makes your brain create & then release more oxytocin – making you feel better.


The benefits oxytocin do not stop at helping us feel loved. It lowers levels of stress hormones which leads to lowered blood pressure, acts as an anti-depressant (improving mood), and increases tolerance for pain.


Here are some other things studies are showing are connected to the pituitary’s release of more oxytocin into the bloodstream:

Feeling good when we are close to family & loved ones

Sexual attraction to our spouses

Causes uterine contractions during labor (and is passed through breast milk to our infants increasing the mommy/baby bond)

Speeding the healing process

Increases our sense of well-being and confidence reducing social fears and helps us over come shyness



Barraza, J. A., McCullough, M. E., Ahmadi, S. & Zak, P. J. (2011). Oxytocin infusion increases charitable donations regardless of monetary resources. Hormones and Behavior, 60(2), 148-151.

Ditzen, B. et al. (2009). Intranasal Oxytocin Increases Positive Communication and Reduces Cortisol Levels During Couple Conflict. Biological Psychiatry, 65, 728-73. Abstract.

Floyd, Kory (2011). Affection Mediates the Impact of Alexithymia on Relationships. Personality and Individual Differences 50, 451-456

Grewen, K. M., Girdler, S. S., Amico, J. & Light, K. C. (2005). Effects of partner support on resting oxytocin, cortisol, norepinephrine, and blood pressure before and after warm partner contact. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67(4), 531-538. Abstract.

Light K. C., Grewen, K. M. & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology, 69(1), 5-21. Epub 2004 Dec 29. Abstract.

Theodoridou, A., Rowe, I., Penton-Voak, I., Rogers, P. (2009). Oxytocin and social perception: Oxytocin increases perceived facial trustworthiness and attractiveness. Hormones and Behavior, 56,1, 128–132.


Other Articles you might find interesting:

Oxytocin: Go Out and Touch Someone

Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects

Embrace Hugging: Daily cuddles can combat infections and lowers risk of heart disease

10 Reasons Why We Need at Least 8 Hugs a Day

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