Share A Hug Day: The Benefits Of Physical Touch And Affection

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While they may sometimes be taken for granted, hugs can be a means for people to receive comfort, reduce stress, and strengthen their bond with others. There are many reasons to hug someone, including but not limited to getting a promotion at work, moving into a new house, or welcoming a new child into the world. Some people hug to offer comfort, peace, or support to someone who is hurting. 

Hugs can be exchanged between friends, partners, and family members. A hug is a universal sign of affection and compassion. Share a Hug Day is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the value of hugging and "showing compassion and care for other humans. Whether you enjoy physical touch or wish to abstain, there are several ways to show your loved ones you care on Share a Hug Day.

Are you feeling unappreciated, unloved, or left out?

What is a hug?

Hugs are a non-sexual interpersonal touch used to communicate affection and promote well-being. A consensual and welcome hug tells someone you care about, love, or miss them without using verbal language. Hugs can be used for greetings, comfort, encouragement, or calming presence. 

You can give bear hugs, side hugs, front hugs, or hugs from behind. Some people offer tight hugs, and others offer short ones. Hugs can serve to say "hello," "goodbye," "I missed you," and "I love you." They can also be a sign of compassion and dedication and impart a feeling of closeness.

Hugging may last from a few seconds to several minutes or more. The calming and comforting effects of hugging are due to the release of oxytocin and serotonin. The longer an embrace, the more of a positive and soothing effect it may have, as these chemicals reach their highest levels when you hug or cuddle for seven or more seconds.

Although not everyone enjoys physical touch, hugs can be an essential form of physical affection that all people can benefit from. From when a human is in the womb to their last years on Earth, physical contact and human touch are vital for mental and physical health. Biologically, humans were created to be touched and to touch others. 

Not receiving physical touch can negatively affect your health in a digital age where in-person interactions are rarer. Some adults may feel starved for physical touch but may not know they are missing this connection. Recognizing the importance of hugs and other touch can have positive health outcomes for you and your loved ones.

How can hugs improve mental health?

Physical touch has several mental health benefits for the giver and receiver of an embrace. Below are a few of the benefits of a hug. 

Reduced social anxiety 

Some individuals might not like being hugged or hugging others due to an avoidant attachment style, neurodivergence, or social anxiety, among other causes. They may feel nervous or uncomfortable while still desiring intimacy and affection from others. Consensual hugs may decrease social anxiety as a person becomes more accustomed to touch. However, if you're uncomfortable with touch and don't feel it would benefit you, setting boundaries on who you want to hug and when can be healthy and normal. 

Reduced stress levels

When hugged or touched by someone else, it can boost oxytocin (the love hormone) levels and reduce stress levels. It can also decrease cortisol, a stress hormone. People who receive physical touch may respond positively to stressful events. 

A recent study examined the psychological and physiological effects of interpersonal touch, like a hug. 

Researchers found that hugging deactivated the parts of the brain that respond to conflict or stress, which in turn lowers stress hormones. The study concluded that not only does hugging lower stress levels, but the soothing effects of a hug lasted throughout the day and decreased interpersonal conflict.

Strengthened social bonds 

Hugs may help you feel closer to someone quickly. Like you are bonded to a caregiver through skin-to-skin contact as a baby, you may feel a sense of closeness and love by embracing another person. Strengthening social bonds can help you maintain positive relationships, reducing loneliness and stress. Hugging also conveys empathy, care, and reassurance, which may help those you love feel cared for.  


When you hug someone, your body produces oxytocin, a feel-good chemical in the brain linked to increased well-being levels in social interactions. While you may have heard that oxytocin is released during labor, breastfeeding, and sexual interactions, it is also released with low-intensity skin stimulation, such as hugging or holding hands. 

A release of oxytocin may increase your comfort level in trusting someone you deem important. Thus, oxytocin facilitates trust between you and other people and may help you resolve conflicts with more empathy, compassion, and understanding.

Positivity and kindness

Hugs can make people think more positively, potentially increasing moments of joy. Hugs often have a calming effect that reduces feelings of sadness, reduces stress, and increases comfort. Seeing someone offer hugs and affection may motivate a person to do the same. This concept is known as elevation, a positive emotion in people who see altruistic behavior and are encouraged to mimic this altruism to others. Receiving a hug can make you want to return the favor. 

A note on respecting the physical boundaries of others

Hugs can be beneficial and enjoyable for many people but may not be for everyone. Feeling uncomfortable with physical touch is understandable, and embracing should be consensual in all circumstances. It can be normal to go through periods where you don't like to be touched. Honor these moments and know others may feel the same. Respecting the boundaries and preferences of those around you is crucial, and everyone shows love differently. If someone is uncomfortable with hugging, find other ways to show them your affection and care. 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

The physical benefits of hugging

Hugs may benefit your mental health and have been associated with physical health benefits, including the following. 

A boosted immune system

Hugging can boost your immune system. Excessive stress can cause the immune system to overreact, leading to inflammation and negatively impacting the body systemically. Hugs can calm the nervous system, reducing the negative impacts of stress, preventing an overreactive response, and potentially warding off harmful illnesses.

Reduced pain

Whether you're experiencing acute or chronic pain, embracing someone can relieve stress and lower pain levels. Physical touch increases endorphin production in the body. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals released by the body through activities like exercise. These hormones, combined with oxytocin, reduce pain and calm the nerves. 

Increased oxytocin levels

Oxytocin may sometimes be called the "love drug" or "cuddle hormone." When produced by the body during a hug or snuggle, you can experience a sense of closeness, trust, tenderness, connection, and bonding. Oxytocin is calming, and a calmer state of being may help you better prepare for stress and mental health challenges. 

Lowered blood pressure

When someone hugs you and welcomes you into their arms, the oxytocin levels in your body rise. Oxytocin lessens the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body, which then lowers blood pressure. Lower blood pressure may lead to better health outcomes overall, whereas high blood pressure is associated with a risk of disease, stroke, or a heart attack.

What is Share a Hug Day?

Share a Hug Day is celebrated each year on July 30th in the United States. The movement started in 2018 in honor of Mike Brundritt.

Mike Brundritt lost his wife of 19 years and oldest son in an auto accident with a transport truck when the family was returning home one night. The transport truck failed to stop in a construction zone and plowed into five parked cars, one of which held Brundritt, his wife, his oldest son, and his youngest son. The day ended in tragedy as the accident took the lives of Brundritt's wife and oldest son. To stay positive, Brundritt created Share a Hug Day on the first anniversary of his loved ones' deaths to honor their memory and build a meaningful event from the anniversary of the tragedy, remembering how much his family valued the power of physical touch and exchanging hugs.

Mike Brundritt founded Share a Hug Day on the first anniversary of his wife and son's deaths to remind people they are loved, cared for, and appreciated. Receiving hugs frequently can help people feel less alone, encouraging and comforting them. In addition, hugs can communicate empathy, understanding, and trust in difficult moments. 

How to celebrate Share a Hug Day 

Although not everyone enjoys physical touch, there are a few ways to observe Share a Hug Day on July 30th. Each person shows love in unique ways. While hugs may be an effective way to give or receive affection for some, others might not be comfortable with it. Learning about your loved ones' love languages can help you decide which action or greeting would make them feel most valued and special on Share a Hug Day. You can also try a virtual hug without physical touch by sending a hug emoji or sticker online. 

When you celebrate this event, keep in mind why the movement started and show your affection to those you care about, whether it's your spouse, family members, or friends. Families and friends can partake in the celebration and spread the idea of compassion and love to others in memory of people they may have lost. In 2023, Share a Hug Day is on a Sunday, but you can also celebrate Saturday afternoon or the entire weekend. Making a post on social media is one way to affect other families' lives positively.

Non-physical ways to celebrate Share a Hug Day

Not everyone enjoys physical touch, and that's okay. There are other ways to celebrate Share a Huge Day on July 30th that don't involve hugging, including the following. 

Gift giving 

Consider giving someone you love a thoughtful gift. Pick out something you think they'd like, as the thought behind the gift may matter more to them than the gift itself. If you don't have the income to spend on a gift, you might make a gift from scratch, like a letter, poem, drawing, or DIY project. 

Sending flowers 

Whether you give them to your partner, sibling, or friend, flowers can brighten a person's day. Consider finding a flower and chocolates delivery service and sending them surprising flowers to their workplace, home, or school. 

Sending a kind message or card

You can send a thoughtful text message, a personalized card, or a letter to tell someone how much you care. Send compliments, encouragement, or comfort if they're going through a difficult moment. Words can lift someone up and celebrate their presence in your life. 

Giving gifts people can hug 

Although "hug" is in the name, what may be more important on National Hugging Day is showing those you love that you care for them. Consider sending a stuffed animal or soft blanket that this individual can hug alone. Hugging a stuffed animal may offer similar effects to hugging a person. 

Are you feeling unappreciated, unloved, or left out?

How to cope when a hug isn’t enough

If you are having social challenges or experiencing a complex event that you struggle to cope with alone, you might benefit from contacting a therapist. If you have a busy schedule, you can also try an online platform like BetterHelp. 

Online platforms can connect you with a qualified therapist with experience helping people work through challenges. You can meet with your therapist based on your schedule and choose from phone, video, or chat sessions each week. You might also find that you are more comfortable talking with a professional online than in person. 

One study found that internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) could be as effective as in-person therapy in reducing symptoms associated with moderate and severe depression. These findings are on par with studies on the traditional format of therapy. If you're looking for a way to reduce loneliness, depression, sadness, or avoidance, therapy may benefit you. 


Hugs reduce stress hormones while increasing positive neurotransmitters in the body, boosting your immune system and helping your body fight off illness. Share a Hug Day offers an opportunity to find an excuse to embrace and show someone you care about them. If this person doesn't enjoy hugging, you can write a letter, use other forms of consensual physical touch, or take them on a special outing. 

If hugging does not relieve stress, anxiety, or loneliness, consider contacting a therapist. Therapy can involve a process of trial and error but is often effective for a range of challenges. Start by connecting with an online or in-person provider for support.

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