Today is National Hug Day — apparently celebrated in the U.S. and other countries on January 21 since 1986.
It’s a day to spontaneously embrace your partner, friend, or child and if they’re not physically in front of you, to send them virtual hugs with call, message, or just your thoughts.
If you’re rolling your eyes, I don’t blame you. But actually hugs aren’t just a bonus or a frill, they’re important to our mental and physical health. Whether it’s a hug, a squeeze on the shoulder, or even a gentle arm touch — making contact with other people changes our chemistry.
Here are 5 things to know about hugs and touching:
1. Babies who are given regular massages in the NICU gain weight faster and are released days earlier, on average.
2. People who have strong relationships and social connections have better physical health.
3. Touch improves our attention span.
4. Massage brings down our stress hormone levels.
5. Regular physical contact actually relieves pain and alleviates depression symptoms.