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Give Somebody a Holiday Hug

What is the healthiest gift you can give somebody for the holidays? The healthiest gift is a hug. A hug is better than 270 Apple computers. A hug is better than twenty Lexis RX350s. It’s better than 97 world cruses on the Norwegian Line.

We need hugs as soon as we are born. We come out of the warm womb into the cold clinic jagged with harsh noises, lights and smells. A hug for a baby is even more important than for an adult. It is better than 73 trillion world cruises.

A lot of research over the years has confirmed how important hugs are for people. A recent study discovered that importance once again. The study was done by Dr. Michael Murphy.

For the study, which was published in the online journal, PLOS ONE, researchers interviewed 404 men and women every night for two weeks. They were asked about a wide range of activities as well as about any positive or negative moods. The study focused on people who were married or in exclusive relationships.

What the study found is that when participants received one or more hugs a day, they reported that even though they had experienced conflicts, the hugs caused them to have fewer negative emotions.

“We were not surprised to find that people who reported receiving a hug appeared to be protected against poorer moods related to experiencing conflict,” said Murphy, the study’s lead author, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“This finding is consistent with multiple emerging lines of evidence demonstrating the ability of touch-behaviors within close relationships to reduce perceptions of threat and increase feelings of security and wellbeing,” Murphy said by email. “We were, however, at least somewhat surprised to find that there were no detectable differences between women and men in our study in the extent to which hugs protected against conflict-related negative mood.”

Studies like this one often confirm, scientifically, what most of us already know. We all know, based on our own experience, that hugs make us feel better. However, in the midst of our lives, between a hectic work schedule and the needle pricks of the daily routine, we forget about the importance of hugs.

So this Christmas (or whatever other holiday you’re celebrating), when you are opening the gifts and drinking the merlot wine and gazing at the bright lights and nibbling on the fruit cake and laughing or crying out loud (or holding it in) and trying not to think about the bills you owe or people who have unfriended you during the year or other bad things that have happened, do something different.

Give her or him or them a hug. It’ll be worth it.

Give Somebody a Holiday Hug

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2018). Give Somebody a Holiday Hug. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Dec 2018
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