Have an argument with your mom? A spat with your spouse? New research says you can take the edge off the fight by hugging it out.
The study, published last fall in PLOS One, says that a simple hug can help reduce negative feelings about conflict even into the next day, compared to not hugging after a conflict.
“A very simple, straightforward behavior — hugging — might be an effective way of supporting both men and women who are experiencing conflict in their relationships,” Michael Murphy, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity and Disease, told Time magazine.
According to the research, hugging may be more than just a way to show support; it may positively impact the mood and emotional health of people you love.
For the study, more than 400 people were interviewed every night over the phone. Each day, they were asked about their mood, if they had experienced conflict with others and if they had received a hug. Researchers used their answers to develop a measurement of the effects of hugs.
Men and women of all ages, whether they were single or married, experienced the positive effects of a hug, including improved mood following conflict. While many participants who had experienced conflict were still in a bad mood, their mood wasn’t as bad as those who had not received a hug. They also had a more positive mood on days where they received a hug, but experienced no conflict. These effects seemed to last into the next day.
To see positive effects, the hug did not need to come from the person with whom the participants argued. All that was important is that they received a hug from someone during the day.
It’s possible that a hug has positive effects because it is a concrete form of social support. When people feel cared about, they tend to handle stress better. Hugs may also help with the release of hormones like oxytocin, which can improve mood, and even lower heart rate.
Of course, you only see these positive effects if you enjoy hugs. Some people don’t like hugging, let alone being touched. So make sure if you hug someone, it’s consensual.
The hug study is part of a larger focus on how interpersonal touch like hugging, kissing or holding hands can affect mental health and relationships. It’s an area that is largely unstudied, though scientists can pinpoint physiological changes like hormone release or changes in blood pressure.
The researchers are planning future hug studies to see if who the hugger is can affect how much the hug helps. For instance, does a hug from mom do more good than a hug from a friend or vice versa? How about hugging your dog?
Hugging may not lead to world peace, but the right hug from the right person could help you find better peace of mind.
A Guide to Hugging
People need physical contact, and there’s no simpler way to show affection than with a hug. There are all different kinds of hugs, from the hug you give to comfort a child to the full-body hug you might give your partner. Here are the kinds of hugs and how to give the best ones.
This is the most common and frequently shared hug – a simple handshake. When in doubt about the appropriateness of hugging someone, simply extend your hand for a handshake. The hand hug is also the most appropriate form of affection in the workplace, used to congratulate or greet someone.
Hello or Standard Hug
This type of hug is usually used when greeting a friend. This is the standard and most common type of non-intimate hug, usually lasting just a few seconds. This hug can be performed using one arm or two.
A bear hug is a strong, full-body hug. The hugger and huggee wrap their arms tightly around each other, heart to heart, and may rock back and forth while embracing to emphasize affectionate feelings. These hugs tend to last a little longer than the standard hug.
This type of hug is used to comfort or console someone. This hug is similar to a standard hug; however, it is distinctive because of its intensity and duration. This type of hug is usually performed by parents and close friends. The huggee may rest his or her head on the shoulder or chest of the hugger for comfort.
This type of hug is almost always performed between two males and is a combination between a handshake and a one-armed hug. The two participants slap each other on the back while embracing. This type of hug lasts about one second — anything longer tends to make the participants feel uncomfortable.
With the reverse hug, the hugger approaches the huggee from behind and puts his/her arms around the huggee’s waist. This type of hug is usually reserved for people who are in a romantic relationship.
Just as the name implies, this is a hug that you give to yourself. Simply wrap your arms around your torso and squeeze tightly.