One Action You Can Do Daily To Increase Your Overall Wellbeing

by Abby Stern

Bear hug, side hug, back tapping hug, heart hug, or a simple squeeze, with hundreds of variations, there is no wrong way to embrace another in a hug. Research has shown that embracing in a hug on a daily basis decreases loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress and even sickness and disease(1). Replace your daily apple because a hug a day could keep the doctor away!

One of our favorite variations is the heart hug, leading with the left arm. While this seems counter-intuitive to our right-handed dominated society, leading with your left arm allows for a heart to heart embrace, enacting a deeper connection and increased benefits. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart has special importance. It is seen at the ‘ruler’ of all the organs in one’s body and is the center of our perceptions.(2)

When we lead with our right arm in a traditional hug, we are aligning our livers in the embrace. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of emotions. If the liver is not functioning at its highest capacity, it becomes the physical storage area where negative associations with anger, stress, and pain can get stuck.(2)

This is not to be interpreted as, hugging the ‘normal’ way will increase anger or stress but that leading with the left arm is leading with love. The heart hug is one of the tools we teach at Lead With Love, an Experience for accessing human potential in Aspen, Colorado October 26-29, 2017. We invite you to join us in this gathering to find what lights you up and how to share that more effectively with the world. 

Start the process today with an MBSRx of 8 hugs a day. If you are not currently the hugging type, we hope these 5 benefits will update your perception of the embrace.

Elevate Mood and Decrease Depression

A good hug is the fastest way to get oxytocin and dopamine flowing in the body. Oxytocin, or the “love hormone”  and dopamine the “pleasure hormone” both elevate mood and the feelings of happiness and joy. The connection felt when partaking in the act of hugging will also combat the feelings of isolation and loneliness. (3)

Alleviate Stress, Reduce Worry and Relax

When the oxytocin levels begin to increase, cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone” begins to decrease. In many studies, adults who were frequently hugged and cuddled during early childhood years display fewer stress and anxiety symptoms than the less embraced.(5) Holding a hug for more than 5 second allows the body to release tension, sending a calming message to the brain and throughout the body. Feelings of anxiety can be lifted and relaxation can set in. In today’s digitally connected society, many operate at a constant state of high alert and anxiety, causing an under active parasympathetic nervous system. Hugging provides manual stimulation to the parasympathetic nervous system causing a natural decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol.(6)

Increase Connection to Community and Bonding

The release of oxytocin also promotes the feelings of bonding, devotion, and trust. A sense of belonging is a strong human desire we all share and why we enacted the Aspen City of Wellbeing Love Ninjas. This sense of belonging to a greater community improves motivation, health, and happiness. A hug is one of the quickest ways to achieve the feeling of belonging.(7)


An emotional bond, and the touch of a loved one can decrease our aches and pains according to a study by Israel's Haifa University, which has found natural "love-induced" painkillers can kick in when we feel an emotional bond towards someone touching us. Hugging yourself, or crossing your arms around the front of your body can also significantly reduce pain. (4)

Boost Immune System & Improve Heart Health

Replace your daily apple with hugs and you may not only stay in the clear this winter season but also live a longer life. When giving and receiving a hug, gentle pressure is placed on the sternum, stimulating the thymus gland. The thymus regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells while also lower heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of the cortisol. (1)

Do you love hugs as much as we do??? Check out this custom-made I HEART HUGS embroidered patch! Your purchase supports Aspen City of Wellbeing and shows the world that you LEAD WITH LOVE! More fun stuff available in our MTN MKT!

I Heart Hugs! Embroidered patch (iron on or sew on)

2" high embroidered + twill patch. Iron-on backing makes for easy attachment to most fabrics. Support Aspen City of Wellbeing with this purchase.

Add To Cart
Jess Ewart