Self-hugs can seem kind of silly. Who really stands around hugging themselves, and how on earth could something like this really reduce stress?
As it turns out, as we run errands, cook meals, care for families, rush around town, work high pressure jobs, etc. our brain often starts to hang out in the “fight or fight” space and hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine are released. Interestingly, these are the primal hormones that protect us when we are in sudden and urgent danger – say if a lion were hunting us, etc. and though we might be stressed out, we are not usually at a level of danger that flight or fight responses are required. Therefore, it is important to help these hormones to calm down.
This is where the 20 second hug or self-hug comes in to play. After a 20 second self-hug, the brain will release huge amounts the “feel good hormone” oxytocin in to the blood stream and reduce the amount of the stress inducing hormone cortisol. It also signals to the brain that if it can stop to do a self-hug, it is clearly not under attack by a lion and a fight or flight response is not required helping to calm down that response. Additionally, self-hugs also send the brain messages of self-care compassion, and piece. So, get your hug on – it’s simple, fast and effective!