By Lance Smith

More and more you hear that one of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to partake in plentiful hugging. Some say that a human cannot thrive in life without receiving at least 12 hugs a day, and that eight is necessary to keep one healthy. In fact, I’ve read that if you hug under four times a day, you’ll die. What’s more unusual, however, is that there is a plethora of science behind this. While I have not yet begun to question the motives of that guy in the YouTube video who gives hundreds of free hugs in some large city, it’s fascinating, really, that he could’ve actually been running a business. He gives people what they want (hugs – people love hugs) and in return, he gets what he wants. But he isn’t getting paid in cash. What he’s getting may even be better in the long run: hugs.

You see, it doesn’t take a doctor to tell you that hugs increase one’s comfort level. First of all, a good hugger is an inducer of physical satisfaction. Also, social psychology (and common sense) tells us that a hug makes a person more likely to feel understood and respected. So what does a good comfort level do for us? It translates to a more relaxed and happy disposition. This directly results in a lower average heart rate, which means lower blood pressure and lower risk of heart disease. Hugging is especially good for girls, as it increases levels of the oxytocin hormone, which is primarily beneficial for the female gender.

In related news, a good hugger is also a quality physical therapist. While your average, run-of-the-mill hug may only make someone feel better, a powerful, eye-opening hug is likely to stimulate some nerve endings. While this is good on its own, nerve stimulation is also good for your circulation.

Positive thoughts and emotions may be good for your heart, but sometimes it’s nice just to be happy. According to a study, cuddling is better for our disposition than going to church on a regular basis, even if we’re religious. While I am no blasphemer, hugging may be a simple yet effective answer for a lot of issues.

At this point, you may be inspired to hug the person nearest to you. However, I would advise you not to do that unless you get their permission. You see, hugging is usually only mutually beneficial when consensual; forced hugging is socially off-limits. And it also depends on the person. Some people are shy, and while they would enjoy these benefits, they may be uncomfortable giving a hug. This is extremely counterproductive. Other people are bad huggers, and they may offend, or even injure, the person they are trying to embrace. So I guess the verdict is there is no exact formula for hugging. Do what works for you. If you are hugging in double digits every day, good for you. If you’re like me and you are lacking, get out there and do some hugging! The doctor recommends it.