The Surprising Ways Hugs and Laughter Help Reduce Stress

In one of my previous posts on stress relief, I briefly mentioned the benefits of hugs and laughter for stress relief. These are such fun, simple and powerful techniques that anyone, anywhere can use, that I thought it was time to dive a little deeper and look at why they work and how we can actively use them to reduce the negative effects of chronic stress.

First, let’s talk about hugs. Have you ever noticed how a good hug makes you feel better? It calms you down and changes your entire perspective on the world and what has been upsetting or stressing you out. It turns out there is a science behind hugs and a reason why we feel better.

There are measurable effects on your heart and brain activity stress levels when you hug, and these benefits increase significantly around the 20-second mark. As an added bonus, your body releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. It’s no wonder your whole attitude starts to change after a good hug.

Start hugging your loved one or favorite pet more often, and when you do, try to hold the hug for at least twenty seconds. Don’t be creepy about it, but if you feel comfortable – and you should if you’re sharing a long hug – tell the other person about the benefits of these longer hugs. Soon enough, it will become second nature and you’ll both continue to reap the rewards.

If hugs aren’t an option, or if you don’t enjoy them, try laughter. It releases tension and relieves stress. An added benefit is that you suck more air into your lungs, which results in more oxygen being delivered to your heart, brain and other vital organs. Frequent laughter can even improve your immune system.

Put on a funny movie, watch a TV sitcom, read some funny cartoons, call a friend to make you laugh, or just start laughing and fake it until you feel it. Laughter, it turns out, is really great medicine and good for your body and mind.

Fun fact for you. There’s even a whole subset of yoga practitioners who do laughter yoga as a stress relief technique. Can you imagine attending a class where you do various yoga exercises while making a conscious effort to laugh out loud?

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