The Science Behind Hugs

Who doesn’t like to give/receive hugs? Besides kissing, hugging someone is a really intimate form of showing affection. However did you know what actually happens inside of your/ their body whenever you hug someone? Your pituitary gland releases lots of good hormones that’s what happens! It also lowers your cortisol levels.

Here’s how it all works:

Oxytocin a hormone found in the hypothalamus, which is located at the base of the brain, is transported and secreted by the pituitary gland. In chemistry oxytocin is classed as a nonapeptide, but when it comes to biology its classed as a neuropeptide. In a way it kind of acts simultaneously as a hormone and a neurotransmitter.  Oxytocin is most commonly known for being able to strengthen contractions. However did you know that oxytocin is released into the bloodstream and it affects emotional, cognitive, and social behaviors. It contributes a lot to trust, relaxation and psychological stability!

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter it is produced in the dopaminergic neurons in the VTA (aka the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain.), the substantia nigra par compacta, and the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus. Dopamine is known as “The Pleasure Hormone” and alongside being stimulated by hugs it is also released by eating food, sex, and several different kinds of drugs. While in theory dopamine is considered to be responsible for lots of notable functions for instance: movement. memory, pleasure, behavior, cognition, attention, sleep, mood, and learning.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter though many also consider it to be a hormone, it is produced inside of the brain and in the intestines. It plays a really big role in what your mood is, and happiness. When you hug someone and get a sense of happiness and comfort that overtakes you, it’s probably your serotonin doing it’s thing! Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, so what are some other ways to boost your levels you ask? think more positively, and spend more time outside under the sun!

Endorphin is a hormone released from the pituitary gland, though stress and pain release it, hugging someone while in pain can definitely trigger it and when released it acts like a natural pain killer which if you think about it is pretty freaking cool the way your own body watches out for just you! A way to increase your Endorphin levels is to exercise very roughly. (But don’t be excessive you could hurt yourself instead of helping yourself.)  

Cortisol is a steroid hormone is found in the adrenal gland. The release of it is controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, regulates your metabolism, helps reduce inflammation, helps with your memory formulation! Anxiety and depression are typically associated with HIGH levels of cortisol.

Not only does hugging someone make you feel at ease, but it lowers your heart rate, and lets out lot’s of good hormones for you. So, hug people more often you could be really helping them, or even just helping yourself.


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