HUGS and kisses for family and friends are back on the “Covid approved” list today as the latest round of coronavirus restrictions are eased.
Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown Brits can now sit indoors in a pub, overnight stays are permitted and so are cuddles.
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For over a year the country has had a strict no hugging, no kissing, no handshaking law between anyone outside of your household.
But despite the relaxation of rules Mr Johnson today urged people to continue to assess the risks when it comes to having close contact with loved ones.
In a tweet this morning he said: "Please be cautious about the risks to your loved ones, remember that close contact, such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease."
Dr Hilary Jones also advised people as to how they could 'safely' hug one another.
In images demonstrating how to hug, Dr Hilary and his wife wear a mask and position their faces away from each others.
Scientists and medics have found mountains of evidence that show the power a hug can have on your health.
From reducing our risk of heart disease to improving our mood and motivation – the return of the hug will give the nation a much needed boost.
Here, Life Coach and Behaviour Change Expert for RWL Jeff Spires brings you the top health benefits of a good hug.
Hugging reduces loneliness
Jeff said that Hugging is proven to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness.
Researchers have found that hugs boost the release of hormone oxytocin.
This hormone plays a role in social bonding, reproduction, childbirth and helps us to feel connected and loved by others.
Oxytocin is released into the bloodstream as a hormone in response to love and it prevents us from feeling alone.
One simple hug is enough to rid us of stress for the rest of the day, Jeff explains.
Stress has a hugely negative impact on our health, putting us at greater risk of depression, anxiety, obesity and heart attacks.
Simply through the act of hugging, our brains are triggered to release chemicals that help us feel more safe and less threatened throughout the day.
If something stressful does come up, we don’t have such an aggressive fight-or-flight response to it, meaning our stress levels are much reduced overall.
Stops us arguing
Research found that receiving a hug is associated with reducing anger or our want for conflict with other people.
Having just one hug earlier in the day boosts our oxytocin (the love hormone) and reduces our stress levels so greatly that we are unlikely to rise to disagreements or conflict with others at any other point in the day.
Hugs boost our immune system
When we experience the release of negative hormones – like the release of cortisol when we are stressed, our immune system responds as if it is fighting an illness and actually makes us more susceptible to getting ill as a result.
Because hugs reduce stress and depression, our immune system is prevented from overreacting and instead our immune system becomes stronger.
A recent study found that people who were regulars hugged and felt socially supported also experienced less severe symptoms of sickness.
It is not talked about enough when it comes to weight loss, but researchers have long reported that rises in the stress hormone cortisol can lead to weight gain.
Every time you experience stress your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol which results in glucose being released into your bloodstream.
This is done to give you energy to escape from a risky situation (this is known as the fight or flight response) – but in reality, modern day stress does not require this energy release at all.
Instead, stress impacts our ability to maintain a healthy weight – and can prevent us from losing weight because we quickly experience a drop in blood sugar immediately after – making us crave sugar and sweet things.
Alongside this, the release of cortisol also slows down your metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight even if you are avoiding those sugary treats.
Hugs improve our heart health
Heart disease and high blood pressure are some of the biggest killers in the world.
A study by the University of North Carolina found that those who have regular hugs have a lower blood pressure and heart rate during stressful times, than those who don’t.
This significantly reduces the chance of heart attack later in life.
Reduce depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are linked with an over responsive fear response in the brain.
The over release of stress hormones and imbalance of oestrogen and testosterone alone with a lack of melatonin and dopamine are a recipe for low mood and anxiousness.
Put simply, research shows s that hugging can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression thanks to its ability to trigger the release of oxytocin (the bonding hormone), dopamine (the happy
hormone), and reduce the release of cortisol (the stress hormone).
For people battling depression and anxiety, isolation and loneliness is a big barrier to healing.
Further studies also show that hugging can help prevent these feelings of loneliness and help pave the way for recovery.
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