National Cuddle Up Day falls today every year. Although Hong Kong winters don’t get very cold, January still has some of the chilliest days on the calendar, so we’re taking the opportunity to get as many cuddles as we can today to keep ourselves warm.
Cuddling isn’t just good for making you feel all cosy and snug. In fact, it’s also been scientifically proven to benefit your mental and physical health. Amid all the political conflict in the city, we could all use a big, warm, healing embrace. Here’s why:
According to a 2018 study by Dr Michael Murphy from the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, in the US state of Pennsylvania, hugging can light up your day and make conflicts significantly more bearable.
Researchers found that the volunteers in the experiment generally felt happier on days when they had been given at least one hug. What’s more, if they had received a hug on a day where they had a fight with someone, the dispute tended to cause less of a negative impact on their mood.
The experiment results also showed that when participants received a hug and got into an argument the next day, they experienced a more stable mood compared to when they hadn’t received any hugs the day before.
In another study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in which couples were put in an unpleasant situation, researchers found that human touch alone could reduce brain activity in the area related to stress, as well as increase activity in the area related to pleasant feelings.
Hugging also makes you less likely to get sick. A study, conducted by Dr Sheldon Cohen along with other professors at the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in 2015, shows that apart from the social support that hugging can create, it makes people stronger.
In the experiment, 404 volunteers were called every evening for two weeks and were asked if they had been hugged that day. Researchers also recorded whether the participants felt they had received more social support. The same group of volunteers were then invited to a hotel and quarantined in different rooms. They were given nasal drops that contained a virus that caused common illnesses like colds.
The results showed that volunteers who had been hugged more were less likely to fall ill. Additionally, among those who were infected, those who had received more hugs had less serious symptoms.
Researchers concluded hugging is an effective way to reduce stress and likelihood of catching a cold by delivering a sense of social support. So if you’re feeling like you have a cold coming on, or if the stress of school is starting to get to you, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your friend for a hug.