Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Hugs & the Brain

I am a “hugger” and going a bit nuts with this physical distancing. Am I right that hugs are good for the brain? Are you a “hugger?”

 The human brain is a relational organ. That is the good news and the bad news. Bad news if the brain’s relationships are dysfunctional. Good news if the relationships are positive and contribute to one’s wellbeing. Not everyone is a “hugger” by any stretch of the imagination. However, for those who are huggers or for those who are very “selective huggers” (as I am), there is some positive news. Researchers led by Sheldon Cohen studied the impact of “hugs” in helping to protect individuals from getting sick and/or level of symptoms. Study participants were exposed to a common cold virus and then sequestered. Researchers monitored infection rates and symptoms of illness. They found that perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts—with hugs being responsible for one third of the protective effect. Among those who did become infected, greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs both resulted in less severe symptoms of illness. More tomorrow. 

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