Twenty Second Hugs

^z 15th August 2023 at 8:22pm

Pop psychology, and also deep truth? In recent years "The 20 Second Hug" has become increasingly trendy. Maybe there's something to it. Busy Executive Summary: long slow hugs may help reduce stress, build connections, and catalyze happiness. Some representative tidbits:

from "The Healing Power of a 20-Second Hug (and other surprising finds)" by Zoe Yarborough, citing the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Amelia and Emily Nagoski and their interview with Brené Brown:

"... Emotions are cycles that happen in your body. They are neurological events ... When you finally finish a [highly stressful activity], the cycle of stress cannot complete itself through reason. We have to do something to tell our minds and show our bodies we are safe again. ..."

7 Ways to End the Stress Cycle

  1. Any physical activity — "... moving your body is the most efficient way to complete your stress cycle. It can literally be any type of physical activity."
  2. Breathing — "... the 'gentlest' way to complete the stress response cycle, so if you have survived trauma, abuse, or other adverse childhood experiences, 'a great place to start so that you don’t get overwhelmed is just with tuning into your breath' ..."
  3. Positive social interaction – "... connect with other people ... as simple as a pleasant interchange of compliments with your barista ..."
  4. Laughter — not fake-polite social laughter, but "... the slightly embarrassing, mouth hanging open, belly jiggling, uncontrolled, ridiculous laughter that really takes over your body; you can’t stop laughing. That laughter will take you all the way through the end of a stress cycle."
  5. The 20-second hug — "… research suggests a 20-second hug can change your hormones, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, and improve mood, all of which are reflected in the post-hug increase in the social bonding hormone, oxytocin .... it is less about the amount of time and more about it being a tight and equal embracing of your body with someone else's .... Holding your own center of gravity and staying there, breathing together until you feel the shift in your chemistry … that's your body going, 'I have come home to a place of safety … because my body feels safe with this other person pressed against it,' .... In these weird, distanced times, hugging the people in your pod often and longer than usual can help tell your body to end a stress cycle."
  6. A big ol' cry — "... [focus] on the physical sensations felt while crying rather than what's making you cry. 'Usually [it] just takes a few minutes .... if you don’t continue feeding it thoughts about the cause of the stress, really five minutes maybe.'"
  7. Creative expression — "... taking the thoughts and feelings inside you and putting them out in the world through drawing, or knitting, or sculpting, or designing, or choreographing ..."

from "20-Second Hug Effect: trade stress and busyness for love and happiness" by Courtney Carver:

As an introvert, an extra long hug isn't always my favorite thing but there are a few people in my life I never want to let go of and plan on hugging them more frequently. If you need to lean in to the 20-second hug, you'll be happy to hear that research shows a 6-second hug is powerful too. ... Sometimes it's good to say, 'I love you,' sometimes it's good to express that thought without words."


"If you are looking for a simple technique with no negative side-effects that will reduce stress, improve connection with others, and spread love, try the 20-second hug. Hug someone you love for 6 – 20 seconds. If your loves are far away, call them and tell them you can't wait to give them a big hug the next time you see them."

from What Are the Benefits of Hugging? by Erica Cirino:

  • Hugs reduce stress by showing your support
  • Hugs may protect you against illness
  • Hugs may boost your heart health
  • Hugs can make you happier
  • Hugs help reduce your fears
  • Hugs may help reduce your pain
  • Hugs help you communicate with others

(cf Cuddlers vs Goths (2001-12-14), Inhabiting the Body (2015-09-10), How Full Is Your Bucket (2016-09-13), Nothing Here (2016-11-21), Cwtch (2017-09-25), Mantra - It's a Blessing (2017-11-23), Comfy Jeans (2021-01-25), ...) - ^z - 2023-08-15