If you’ve ever felt a boost of happiness after a big hug with a loved one, you’re surely not alone. In fact, science has much to say about why that might be. Closeness with someone you care about is certainly a contributing factor, but a flood of positive brain chemicals released during your embrace can also play a role in improving your mood.
This January 21st is National Hugging Day, providing a great reason to get a little closer to those in your socially-distanced tribe. The event, which is in its 26th year, encourages us to hug family members and friends more often. Event creator Kevin Zaborney stated the commonality of post-holiday doldrums for his choice of timing and has expressed hope that the event would help Americans feel more comfortable with public displays of emotion.
Celebrating National Hugging Day with your family? Here are a few benefits to look forward to:
- A better, more relaxed mood: Thanks to biology, a squeeze with your honey, your kids, or a beloved friend can genuinely change your mood for the better. Affectionate embraces are linked with the release of serotonin and oxytocin, two neurotransmitters that help ease depression and anxiety, form loving social bonds, and create a sense of calm.
- A stronger microbiome: As we know all too well, getting up close and personal is how illnesses are transmitted. Not all the bacteria that make the jump from person to person are bad news, however. “Good” bacteria boost your resistance to disease and improve your gut health, and they’re transmitted via physical proximity as well. 
- Lower risk of serious illnesses: Few pieces of long-term health advice are as actionable as a daily hug. Scientific studies have associated routine embracing with a reduction in the presence of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which contributes to the development and worsening of chronic illnesses like Crohn’s, diabetes, arthritis, and wasting disorders, among other concerns. 
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we join with National Hugging Day founder Kevin Zaborney in urging you to follow CDC and WHO guidelines for social distancing, saving this year’s squeezes for those with whom you maintain safe proximity. History, event celebrations, and fun, family-friendly stories about the power of hugs can be found on the event’s website.
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