Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

Embracing the built-in benefits of the clutch and cuddle.

Genuine caring hugs feel great and are a built-in, natural and cost-free way to enjoy better physical and emotional well-being. We are wired to experience touch as reassuring, and scientists have discovered the far-reaching reasons for and benefits of the feel-good factor.

Hug Hormones


Hugs stimulate the production of oxytocin in the brain. This amazing biochemical evokes the feeling of contentment and lays the foundation for interpersonal bonding. It also lowers blood pressure and heart rate while reducing the stress hormone, cortisol. Though women are more associated with the bonding benefits of oxytocin, studies show for me, it also has a positive effect on levels of happiness, affection and connection in men.


Hugs stimulate dopamine, another of the feel-good hormones. Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. MRI and PET scans reveal that when you give and receive hugs your brain releases dopamine. The brain even initiates dopamine in anticipation of a hug. Another benefit of balanced dopamine levels is that it contributes to feeling motivated in life.


This biochemical contributes to feeling that you matter and you are wanted. Both loneliness and depression occur when serotonin levels are too low. Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels. The released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure as they negate pain and sadness. Hugging for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

A Few More Benefits

Hugs promote a feeling of relaxation, of being cared about and feeling safe; all of which naturally boost our immune system. Another part of the relaxation response, which genuine hugs stimulate, calms and balances our parasympathetic nervous system. Aaaah.

Pet Cuddle Puddles

Research demonstrates that cuddling with pets also creates the soothing and healthful effects of reducing stress levels, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, boosting immunity, and feeling safe and loved.

Hug Friendly JH

One more delightful aspect of life in Jackson Hole is that the culture here is hug friendly. Now you know the science behind why sharing heartfelt hugs is such a plus! Reach out often. Be present when giving and receiving hugs. And of course continue loving on your animals, too. PJH