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Healthy Hugs

Posted January. 29, 2007 04:43,   


Dong-a Pharmaceutical Chairman Kang Shin-ho and his son recently had a reunion after a long-standing feud over the management rights of the company. The junior Kang, upon reconciliation, reportedly asked his father to hug him.

The “Free Hugs” campaign, which started nationwide in the latter half of last year, is continuing to catch on this year. A hundred employees of U-DAP, an industrial training firm, took to the street and “free-hugged” total strangers at parks and main streets of Seoul on Saturday. The campaign started out when a man holding a sign that said “free hugs” hugged passersby two years ago in Sidney, Australia.

Hugs provide people with relaxation and comfort. That is the reason why free huggers have staged the campaign to share happiness with others and fill the void of modern people. Not surprisingly, hugs not only help treat psychological problems but also strengthen our bodies.

Health benefits–

The America Psychosomatic Association released a report in 2003 that found hugs make people healthier. It was a study conducted by psychological researchers at the University of North Carolina to figure out the correlation between hugs and health. They put 100 couples together and asked 50 couples each to watch fun videos holding hands and hug for 20 seconds afterwards.

The other 50 couples were told to watch movies without any physical contact. Later, all the participants were asked to talk about stress they recently experienced for two to three minutes.

The result showed that couples with no physical contact had twice as high blood pressures and heartbeats than their counterparts.

The level of cortisol, a hormone secreted in response to stress, also went up. The effect of contact to unwind the body was scientifically proven.

Child psychiatrist Song Dong-ho at Yongdong Severance Hospital pointed out that physical contact like hugs and massages stabilizes one’s autonomic nervous system, including breathing, heartbeat, and blood sugar level, which are uncontrollable by human will. He expected the same effect to be seen among adults.

The health benefits of physical contact on infants have already been confirmed.

Pediatricians led by Professor Park Jun-dong at Seoul National University Hospital carried out a study where they massaged 15 out of 30 premature babies hospitalized over the period from November 1997 to August 1998 three times a day for 10 days. Each massaged baby added 285 grams of weight and saw lowered levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine, two stress-causing hormones, while the counterpart added only 251 grams without a change in the stress hormone levels over the same period.

Hugs speak louder than words-

Physical contact also helps the development of brain. Doctors say that hugs boost adrenaline and serotonin, neurotransmitters that make people feel better and increase memory. Interestingly, children who were often hugged tend to secrete the hormones when they are no longer touched. Thus, it is safe to say hugging makes children smarter.

Professor Song, saying a little alcohol and sweets can enhance memory, drew an analogy of hugs being the “chocolate” in human relationships.

“A hug is more precious than a hundred words” is a slogan put forth by Free Hugs Korea, a gathering of free huggers.

Indeed, hugging is a language that can mean more than actual words. While a word delivers only a single message, non-verbal expressions like hugs can translate a message in a number of ways and effectively convey what the hugged want to hear.

Professor Jung Yu-suk at Samgsung Medical Center says that she advises parents not to scold their children but to hug them when they misbehave.

However, a condition is attached to gain substantive results with hugging: one must get rid of one’s psychological resistance to hugs.

Eulji University Hospital Psychiatry Professor Ryu Je-chun said children show greater physical and psychological responses to hugs than adults, as they do not feel resistance to the contacts. Thus, hugs with total strangers and hugs between families or spouses are two different things.

The Free Hugs campaign is a performance-like movement to fill the void inside the people of modern age. According to Professor Ryu’s suggestion, the first step toward that goal is to embrace close friends and open our hearts.