A Hug After an Argument Does Make You Feel Better
Your grandmother may have told you that hugs can heal and she was right.
The holidays can be a stressful time of year with everyone rushing to mix and mingle and get everything done before the big day. (You know, the one where you wake up at the crack of dawn with excited children and then cook lunch for 25 of your closest relatives and try to keep the holiday magic alive while you’re dead on your feet.) This is all to say, that you’ll be forgiven if you end up getting in an argument over colored vs white Christmas lights or who was supposed to pick up the holiday ham from the grocery store. If your mistletoe-and-holly fueled stress levels do lead to arguments, there is a scientifically-proven way to get your relationships back on track—and all it takes is two arms and a willingness to forgive. That’s, right, hugging it out is now backed by science.
Your grandmother may have told you that hugs can heal and she was right. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that people who hug and touch more frequently not only have improved physical and psychological health for themselves, but can have better relationships, too. Particularly so among those people that can get their spouse (or child or friend) to hug after a fight and were rewarded with improved relationships.
The team recruited 404 adults for the study, and over the course of two weeks, asked them all sorts of personal questions about their fights, hugs, and moods. In science speak, they proved “the hypothesis that hugs buffer against deleterious changes in affect associated with experiencing interpersonal conflict” In other words, people who hugged it out, or at least hugged on the same day they got in a fight were happier and healthier than those who didn’t. It wasn’t a temporary high, either. People reported that the effects of the post-fight hug lasted into the next day.
Why hugging works and whether or not it works for everyone is still TBD, but scientists are excited by the possibilities. "We still have questions about when, how, and for whom hugs are most helpful," said psychologist Michael Murphy, the lead author of the study. "However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict."
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The results of the study were published in the journal Plos One, adding to the growing body of evidence that hugs can make lives better. Hugging has also been shown to release oxytocin — the so-called cuddle hormone — which helps us bond with each other, fight pain, lower stress, and also reduce blood pressure. The positive effects of hugging could even help you ward off a winter cold and the last thing any of us need around the holidays is a winter cold. So get hugging!