There are lots of people out there who use hugs as a way to cheer themselves or others up. When you hug someone for twenty seconds or more, it triggers a release of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which can help make the other person trust you a little more. While many people think oxytocin is a hormone, it is actually a neurotransmitter, acting within the brain to help it process information and feelings. Several surveys have been conducted to understand the role of this neurotransmitter in life especially in terms of faith, trust and morality, where it seems to play a role.
Oxytocin is released in the body when a person considers themselves to be secure, safe and connected to their loved ones. Through the release of this chemical, the brain knows that everything is safe and that there is no need to worry. To understand why this is, it might be necessary to take a look at other times when oxytocin is produced in the body: oxytocin is generally produced during breastfeeding, orgasms, while receiving a hug or cuddling, engaging in dances or massages or even praying to your particular brand of deity. All of these acts, and more, trigger the release of oxytocin in the brain.
Image Credit:By mark sebastian (Flickr: Engagement (#48474)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Human beings have always been considered to be social creatures; a person cannot live out their life without forming some kind of relationships with others. In this social existence, oxytocin helps us to build relationships and bonds with others by creating a positive experience in our interactions with others, thus further building a positive relationship in addition to feeling relaxed. Along with trust and faith, oxytocin also grants us the ability to feel compassion, forgiveness and any more. In simple terms, an increase in the level of oxytocin in our heads allows us to form positive connections with people we do not know.
Trust is not something that can be gained by giving people physical gifts; there can only be any degree of trust formed if a person is open, honest and, well, trustworthy. Hugging is one of the oldest and finest methods of building trust. All it takes is a 20 second hug to trigger the release of oxytocin and thus build a relationship. Scientists and researchers have confirmed that yes, a hug does indeed trigger a release of oxytocin and, yes, oxytocin is responsible for trust and positive relationships. And so, therefore, we can show that a hug can lead to trust. Boom, science!
There are studies that have shown that a twenty second hug reduces the harmful, physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate. That's because prolonged hugging releases oxytocin, a powerful hormone in the brain that is only found in mammals. It is sometimes referred to as the "bonding hormone" (or even better, the "love drug"), because it plays such a crucial part in strengthening social relations. And one of the most effective ways to stimulate the oxytocin is to hug someone for a time period of no less than twenty seconds.
That is just too friggin' long.
Come on. There are people who can't hold their breathe under water for twenty seconds. There are guys who can't last that long in the sack. (Not me. Never me. I swear!) So to hug someone for that amount of time is really asking for a lot.
Let's do a little experiment. Go ahead and count for twenty seconds. Do it the old school way; you know, "One Mississippi, two Mississippi," et cetera, et cetera. Stop at the full "twenty Mississippi." Go ahead. I'll wait.
Apparently this type of hugging doesn't count, hjalmeida/istockphoto.com
Jesus Christ, that felt like it went on forever, didn't it? While you were counting I got up from my desk, walked to the water cooler, got some water, had a sip, walked back to my desk (with enough time to give a nod to our editor Andrew), sat back down and flipped opened my laptop. All of that completed in twenty seconds. Now imagine hugging for that long of a time. Twenty seconds "“ no more, no less. Kind of uncomfortable, huh?
Now, of course, you are not going to hug a person you have just met for that long of a time. That would be creepy and weird. But even hugging a loved one for twenty seconds is still a bit awkward. I love my wife but I'm not going to hug her for that long. And trust me, she doesn't want a twenty second hug from me. She barely wants a three second hug from me.
Also in the study is the suggestion that you get in at least eight hugs a day for maximum oxytocin benefit. Doing the math, 8 x 20 = 160 seconds, or 2.66666667 minutes of hugging/day.
I can't waste that amount of time on hugging! I consider myself to be a very efficient person so I would like to think that I could wrap it up and release my oxytocin in well under the allotted time. I mean, if you can't get that oxytocin released in about six or seven seconds max then, frankly, you are doing it wrong.
I understand the thought that you are supposed to embrace the embrace, so to speak, and not worry about the length of time. But I can't. All I can think of is, "Is it twenty seconds yet? I swear we were just around eighteen seconds but we are still hugging with no signs of letting go. Can I be done with this now?"
So all of the above mental malarkey prevents me from really focusing on the hug that allows my oxytocin to flow out and drown me in an undertow of wonderfulness and joy. Never has a hug stressed me out so much.
We hug these way longer than 20 seconds, squadcsplayer/istockphoto.com
I think a three second hug is just fine. That's a nice chunk of time. Cause I get it. Hugs are nice. I don't need the extra seventeen seconds of a hug to figure that out.
Here's the main thing about going in for a twenty second hug. You kind of have to let the person know ahead of time. You can't give them that info nine seconds in. And you certainly can't postpone the twenty second hug announcement until the conclusion of that hug. That's just plain rude. So to properly apply the twenty second hug you have to have two consenting adults verbally agree beforehand to the twenty second hug, then time it properly so that both are counting in sync, and finally make sure that both are focused enough on the hug so that the oxytocin is properly released. That's a whole lot of work just to feel a little bit of joy. I'm not sure it's worth it.
Okay, maybe it's worth it a little bit, Studio1One/istockphoto.com