What is a ‘hug’?
Verb: squeeze (someone) tightly in one's arms, typically to express affection.
Noun: an act of holding someone tightly in one's arms, typically to express affection.
So, technically, hug expresses affection. Experts say hugging triggers release and lowers stress hormone levels.
Hugging releases a chemical called Oxytocin, secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, a pea-sized structure at the base of the brain. It is sometimes known as the "cuddle hormone".
It has been scientifically proven that human touches are essential for brain growth. In a study published in the Genetic Psychology Monographs, researchers found that institutionalized infants who received hugs for an additional 20 min of tactile stimulation (touch) per day for 10 weeks scored higher in developmental assessments than those who didn’t. They also found that not all types of touch were beneficial. Only a nurturing touch such as gentle hugging can provide the type of positive stimulation a young brain needs to grow healthily. A young child needs a lot of different sensory stimulation for normal development. Skin contact, or physical touch such as hugging, is one of the most important stimulation required to grow a healthy brain and a strong body. Also, this feel-good hormone has many important effects on our bodies. One of them is growth stimulation.
Studies show that hugging can instantly boost the level of oxytocin. When oxytocin is increased, several growth hormones, such as insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) and nerve growth factor (NGF), are increased as well. As a result, the nurturing touch of a hug enhances a child’s growth.
Hugs are good for a child’s emotional health. Nothing can calm a tantrum-throwing toddler faster than a great big hug from the parent.
Many parents worry that hugging a tantrum-throwing child is rewarding bad behaviour with attention. But it is not. Hugging a child is not the same as giving in (which does encourage bad behaviour).
Hugging without giving in is helping a child learn to self- regulate. Regulating one’s emotion is like driving a car.
Hugs teach children to develop empathy, promotes self-esteem, makes them smarter, helps in discipline, and keeps both of you happy. Gathering your child in your arms for a hug helps to uplift both your spirits and keep you both happy. Hugs function in a similar fashion to meditation and laughter. Apart from teaching you to let go of all negative vibes, they also encourage you to “go with the flow” and relish in the feel-good feelings of the moment.