Hugs help protect against stress and infection

December 29th, 2014 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Researchers found that greater social support and more frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed and resulted in less severe illness symptoms.

Instead of an apple, could a hug-a-day keep the doctor away? According to new research that may not be that far-fetched of an idea.

The researchers at Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences tested whether hugs act as a form of social support, protecting stressed people from getting sick. They found that greater social support and more frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed and resulted in less severe illness symptoms.

The researchers chose to study hugging as an example of social support because hugs are typically a marker of having a more intimate and close relationship with another person.

“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety. We tested whether perceptions of social support are equally effective in protecting us from stress-induced susceptibility to infection and also whether receiving hugs might partially account for those feelings of support and themselves protect a person against infection.”

In 404 healthy adults, perceived support was assessed by a questionnaire, and frequencies of interpersonal conflicts and receiving hugs were derived from telephone interviews conducted on 14 consecutive evenings. Then, the participants were intentionally exposed to a common cold virus and monitored in quarantine to assess infection and signs of illness.

The results showed that perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support. Among infected participants, greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs both resulted in less severe illness symptoms whether or not they experienced conflicts.

“This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress. The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy. Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection, said the lead researcher.”

Psychological Science

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec’s comments on “Hugs help protect against stress and infection”:

A hug is the new apple making the new phrase, “a hug a day keeps the doctor away”.

Does body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body? According to this study the mind rules the body so what do you want to make sure you have covered when you are looking to be your healthiest? Of course your mind, your will and your emotions: these rule supreme over the physical body.

So what do you think is going to hurt your physical health more? Going to bed late or fighting with your spouse or boyfriend/girl friend? Not drinking enough water or not giving and receiving unconditional love? Not eating the right food or not saying the right words to the one you love?

Do not get us wrong, proper sleep, hydration and diet are crucial for your health and they are a part of our core teaching on how to be in total health. They are three of the Seven Basic Steps to Total Health.

But remember this very, very important truth: the physical is onefold positive or negative in your health and healing whereas the mental/emotional is tenfold positive or negative in your total health and healing. So this means if you do all the right physical steps but you are staying in your mind instead of living from your heart, if you are letting fear and doubt rule you instead of Love, Grace and Truth then you surely will open the door to disease in your body.

Let us change the phrase from “Just Do It” to “Just Live It from your heart and not your mind”. Do this and you will experience the blessing of higher levels of health and healing and don’t forget to hug the ones you love today and tell them how much you love them and how much a blessing they are to you and that you thank God everyday that they are in your life.

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