Social Question

laineybug's avatar

Why are hugs comforting?

Asked by laineybug (5318 points ) August 10th, 2011

Earlier today a bunch of friends and I were talking during a water break, and one of them looked really sad. They weren’t, they were mad, but I thought “Maybe he just needs a hug.” Then I realized how weird that is that that’s the first thing I think when people are sad. And then I thought of this question. Hugs comfort me, and they comfort most people, but the thought of it seems very unappealing to me. I feel like when I’m sad, the last thing I would want is to be squeezed by someone, but when I actually am sad the first thing I want is a hug. So why are hugs so comforting?

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30 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I think humans subconsciously want to be hippies, but the reality of life makes it hard to do this. Humans need physical contact, comfort, and acceptance from other humans.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

The last thing I want when I’m sad is a hug. I know lots of others feel the same way.

I think @Blackberry nailed it, though. We do need physical contact, comfort, and acceptance. We are a social species, and interaction with other people is literally crucial for our well-being. Bonding and physically connecting with others is important to our survival, so finding an embrace to be a pleasurable experience would only make sense.

tranquilsea's avatar

People need to be touched. Babies who aren’t touched fair much worse than their counterparts that are touched. People who go for long periods of time without being touched tend to get sick and get sicker than people who are touched. That’s how much we need it.

I recently read that men need to be touched more than women because women are usually good at hugging one another and men are not.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Hugs validate us, and I truly believe that’s what each one of us wants deeply. We want people to recognize us for where we’ve been, where we are now, who we are, and who we’re becoming.

augustlan's avatar

For me, it depends on who’s doing the hugging. Sometimes, people I don’t know very well want to hug, and that can be uncomfortable even under the best of circumstances. But if it’s a loved one, or a close friend, it makes me feel loved, safe, and protected. Those are powerful feelings when I’m feeling puny.

@laineybug gives the best hugs, ever. She has a gift for hugging well. :D

laineybug's avatar

@augustlan gives pretty good hugs too.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Touch releases oxytocin.

lemming's avatar

Hugs are really imprtant. Ideally we should have about 7 hugs per day :/

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Seven hugs per day? I would be a really irritable person if someone tried to hug me that much.

Rarebear's avatar

Sometimes they’re creepy.

Donald_Trump's avatar

‘Cause I get to snug up close to a pair of breasts.

No kidding. What could be finer?

Rarebear's avatar

Like I said. Creepy.

lemming's avatar

@Rarebear I never found a hug to be creepy. Even when I don’t know the person well. Maybe if it was a total creep though lol.

laineybug's avatar

I find hugs a little creepy when someone I barely know hugs me, but that’s the only time I find hugs creepy. note to self: if I ever meet @Donald_Trump in person, don’t hug him.

augustlan's avatar

Note to @Donald_Trump: @laineybug is my 13 year old daughter, dude.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

A few hugs are uncomfortable, but in my experience, most feel comforting.The regional vice-president with our company that used to come visit our hotels would give us hugs, and if he knew us, would give a kiss on the lips. He later vanished without a trace, and the on the rumor mill, it was about more than one case of sexual harassment.

Otherwise, I would agree that they can be comforting, especially when one person is sad and the other has empathy or sympathy for the situation. There was a guy who used to work at the local convenience store that told me that his mother recently died. A few weeks later, he told me that his wife died. He was also having health problems, but was soldiering on. I couldn’t help but ask if I could give him a hug. There was no one else in the store, and he said yes. We both had a good cry as we clung to each other for a minute or two.

There are many other examples that I could give. What I’ve learned is that asking someone who you aren’t already in a close relationship with is the best way to go. Personally, I’m an advocate for the benefits of hugs and could use one myself right now. :)

FutureMemory's avatar

I love hugs. Don’t get enough of ‘em by a long shot.

chyna's avatar

@Donald_Trump Hugs are supposed to be comforting, not a chance to cop a feel. Creeper.

JLeslie's avatar

I think there are a few reasons. I believe we need a certain amount of touch. Too little and we start to have problems, too much and we begin to feel like we don’t own our own bodies. @tranquilsea pointed out that babies do not thrive when they do not receive enough touch. As they grow into children they are more likely to be found rocking back and forth, trying to comfort themselves. When they take vitals of people, it can be observed that our blood pressure and heart rate go down when we are being touched, or even when we touch. This is part of the reason pets are brought into nursing homes, not only because the elderly might miss having their own pet, and enjoy watching the dogs, but because being able to pet them is relaxing and good for their health. They might have very little touch otherwise. Anyway, hugs are accepted culturally as platonic (usually) and ok for friends.

Moreover, we have routines in bonding that make us feel safe and comforted. When we are young our moms, and other adults in our lives hold us while they bond with us. It can be while we are feeding as babies, or when we rest on our parents lap and they stroke our hair so we fall asleep. Or a hug. The routine and the association of these things to being with someone who cares about us, signals that touch is related to love and safety.

All these things, both psychological and physiological, are why I think the hug feels good, as long it given by someone we want the hug from.

I did mention that I think there is such a thing as too much touch. Think about when you have a baby and a three year old, and they are basically on top of you all day. One breast feeding, the other needing your attention, trying to carress the baby while half on top of you while you hold the infant, and more. Then your husband wants to come home and touch you?! Aren’t you touched out? Don’t you want your body to have a break? Maybe you can muster up willingness to have sex, but do you want a whole bunch of forepay?

As far as sex goes, I think most adults get their touch this way. I don’t think we realize it, but I think it is one of the driving forces.

Lastly, I think there are cultural influences also. My husband cannot get used to hugging someone as a greeting, unless they are close family. He especially doesn’t get hugging without kissing (on the cheek). In the midwest it is very common to hug when you have not seen each other in a while. While in other parts of the country a kiss hello is more common. kiss is more common for gay people, Latin Americans, Europeans, and others. I don’t think my Latin American friends would quickly give a hug during a difficult time to a friend, not as fast as the average American. I could be wrong.

Sunny2's avatar

It’s physical evidence that you are NOT alone.
even though you may feel that way

Donald_Trump's avatar

@chyna I didn’t say copping a feel. I said snugging up to some beautiful woman. You may find it creepy to appreciate the beauty of a woman in your arms, but I’m sure many of the other men and even some of the women are in complete harmony with such a sentiment.

Rarebear's avatar

@lemming It’s creepy if someone is trying to hug you just to feel your breasts as @Donald_Trump said.

JLeslie's avatar

@Donald_Trump Well, I also say gross. I’m sure many men are thinking the way you do, I have heard men say it before, and had a couple kind of rub on my chest during a hug when I was younger. I say disgusting. This is why I don’t slow dance with men for a first dance, and for sure many of the men where I went to school could not dance, so they waited to get a little drunk, were a little sweaty, and finally when the slow song came on would ask a girl. A slow dance was them right up against you arms around your waist. Blech.

lemming's avatar

@Rarebear Ya, but I’m not surprised. Men are digusting!! (haha, only kidding!)...I’m a small breasted woman so I don’t often consider men to be coming up hugging me because of my boobs.

JLeslie's avatar

@laineybug I’m sure you have been warned about boys and men.

ucme's avatar

Primeval instinct, neanderthals “hugged” as the only method of keeping warm, no central heating see!

Rarebear's avatar

@ucme How do you know this?

ucme's avatar

Coz i’m a clever tw@!

Rarebear's avatar

@lemming Totally off topic, but you may enjoy this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bEGLbCNRqw

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