The Crucial Step We’re All Missing in Our Battle Against Stress

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You're likely familiar with the oft-recommended tips for managing stress: Work out! Meditate! Take up a hobby! While each of these techniques are linked to increased happiness and decreased stress, finding the time to get it done can feel daunting. Which is... stressful. But what if there was a way to fight stress simply by harnessing the health benefits of hugging another person?

In an interview with NPR, sisters and Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle co-authors Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, revealed one of their favorite ways to manage stress in less than half a minute. "Affection is really powerful. One of our favorite recommendations is the 20 second hug," Emily says. "If you hold someone that long, it communicates to your body that you have a person in your life whom you love and trust enough and who loves and trusts you enough to stand this close together. And your chemistry shifts into a state of I have come home, which is the end of the stress response cycle."

Science proves that hugging has mental and physical health benefits. One study found that a hug can help negate a bad mood.  Another found that people who were hugged more frequently had less severe signs of illness when exposed to the common cold (a form of physical, bodily stress).

Beyond hugs, social connection is an important pillar of wellness. “It’s a basic human need, just like water or food,” Jeremy Fischbach, a psychology researcher at Princeton University, previously told Well+Good. “We can go a few days without water before we die. We can go maybe a month without food before we develop serious health problems. Emotional support is next. If we don’t have regular doses of emotional support, we develop health problems. We’re seeing that happen in this country. It’s probably getting worse by the year.” If you look to Blue Zones, geographic areas known to promote longevity, you'll notice that family and social connection is a major part of the way they live.

Eating well, working out, meditating, getting enough sleep really do help with stress management, but sometimes all you need is a hug.

Here's why friendship is good for your health, and how many you need to live a happy life.

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