CLEVELAND, Ohio – In celebration of National Hugging Day, Jan. 21, an expert with Cleveland Clinic talked about the biggest benefits from hugging others and how best to do it.

“What’s happening on the inside when we receive a hug is there is a release of oxytocin. That is that feel good chemical that when it’s released, we feel bonded to those around us,” said Susan Albers, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic. “There’s also a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone that pumps through our body when we feel stressed or overwhelmed.”

In a study which examined 76 men and women who were romantically involved, researchers found that hugging helped reduce and act as a buffer against womens’ stress. However, the researchers noted it do not have the same impact on men.

According to Dr. Albers, hugging can be a great non-verbal way to connect, showing support and reassurance, but it should not feel routine. It is most effective when it lasts between five and ten seconds.

It’s also important to have the consent of the individual before hugging them. 

“Be mindful that not everyone enjoys hugs, so if this is someone around you, a friend or family member, know that touching their hand or rubbing their back can be just as effective as giving a warm hug,” Dr. Albers said.