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Hug yourself !: Why physical closeness is good for us


ZEIT ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

Berlin (dpa) - People need touch. Body contact is important - almost like the air we breathe. It helps adults cope with stress, babies help them grow up.

The annually recurring “World Hugging Day” (English: National Hugging Day) is supposed to move us on January 21st to give us more hugs.

Why is hugging healthy?

An adult's skin measures up to two square meters - that would be about the size of a door. Because body and psyche are closely related, touching on our largest and most sensitive sense organ triggers something in us. "Without touching, people wither and can get sick," says Ute Repschläger of the Federal Association of Independent Physiotherapists (IFK).

When we are hugged, the body releases messenger substances that are popularly referred to as “happiness hormones”. Oxytocin, for example, has a calming effect, helps reduce stress and strengthens interpersonal relationships. Dopamine has a mood-lifting effect.

Various studies have shown that the heart of people who hug each other regularly beats more calmly, explains the therapist. People with regular physical contact also had lower stress hormone and blood pressure levels.

Children are often hugged, older people less often - why?

"Children naturally seek physical proximity to coping with stress," explains Martin Grunwald, head of the haptics research laboratory at the University of Leipzig. Childhood, in particular, is an “important contact time”. This contact has a fundamental influence especially in early childhood development, Repschläger adds.

Older people in particular often live with a lack of touch. Sufficient contact is often only possible while the partner is still alive. Grunwald: “The young cannot imagine the disembodiment of an old person.”

Not everyone has friends or family to hug. Does it make a difference if a stranger pushes me?

"The calming aspects of a short hug are faster and stronger with a familiar person," explains Grunwald. Touching a close, likeable person is particularly good because it goes hand in hand with trust, says Repschläger. Even cuddling with the pet has an effect on the "happiness hormones".

But even with hugs by strangers a feeling of happiness can arise. The Leipzig haptic researcher therefore praises initiatives such as the “Free Hugs” movement, in which strangers offer free hugs on the street: “Nobody comes out with distorted facial features. People shine and are happy. »

But it always depends on the type of touch: physical contact in a crowded train, for example, tended to cause discomfort for many people, explains Repschläger. Even with a caregiver, for example, a relationship of trust must first be established so that the contact can really do you good.

Do we hug each other too rarely?

There is no general answer to this question. How much physical closeness someone needs can vary widely. Some just don't want to allow any or only a little proximity. Repschläger generally advises to approach each other more often: "Physical touch is of great importance for everyone, regardless of age".

World Huddle Day website

Lower Saxony Medical Association on the skin organ

U.S. Study Hugging Conflict

Source: zeit

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