We all know that cuddling with your romantic partner after a long, stressful day can go a long way in making you feel better. But now, a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, confirms that getting a hug has a real impact on your emotional state, and the hugging doesn’t need to be from a lover in order for you to reap the benefits.
Over the course of two weeks, Carnegie Mellon University researchers asked over 400 adult men and women questions about their conflicts and moods, and interviewed how receiving a hug impacted their stress levels.
“Results indicated that there was an interaction between hug receipt and conflict exposure such that receiving a hug was associated with a smaller conflict-related decrease in positive affect and a smaller conflict-related increase in negative affect when assessed concurrently,” the study reads.
Simply put, hugging feels really good.
“Our results are consistent with the conclusion that both men and women may benefit equally from being hugged on days when conflict occurs,” the study concludes.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Duh,” it’s worth noting that previous research only focused on the effect of hugs in romantic relationships, whereas the results of study suggest that you can get the same mood benefits from a hug if it’s from a friend or even a stranger (provided it’s consensual, of course).
Back in 2004, an Australian man known only by the pseudonym “Juan Mann” began a “Free Hugs Campaign,” encouraging people to stand out on the street with a sign saying “Free Hugs” and giving strangers who needed a bit of boost to their day a warm embrace as a simple and random act of kindness.
In an interview, he said that his inspiration for the campaign came from the surprising emotional benefit he received when a total stranger gave him a hug at a party during a time when he was feeling depressed and dealing with personal difficulties. “I went out to a party one night and a completely random person came up to me and gave me a hug. I felt like a king! It was greatest thing that ever happened,” he said.
Since then, the campaign has become a massive, international social movement, and it’s not uncommon to find at least one person standing around with one of these signs in a public place in your area.
Even celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda have joined in.
My sister didn’t QUITE catch the pic, but I hugged this lady, it was great, would recommend pic.twitter.com/alr4f2tXLH
— BOO-snavi De La Vega (@Lin_Manuel) September 17, 2018
It’s easy to think of this campaign as a hippie fad, or even consider it kind of stupid. But, according to this study, it does actually work, so it might be worth giving it a try.
For what it’s worth, there’s also research that suggests that hugging someone benefits the hugger just as much as the huggee, and studies have shown that people who do engage in at least one random act of kindness every day are happier than those who don’t.
So next time you see someone who looks like they’re feeling blue, offer them a hug. You might be surprised by how they react and what a difference it can make in to their emotional wellbeing.
And for more on how these seemingly small gestures affect us on a physical level, Here’s Why Scientists Say Holding Hands Is Amazing for You.
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