When you’re in a heated argument with a loved one, I’m willing to bet that the last thing you want to do is reach out for a warm, loving snuggle. Well, a new study conducted by the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that a hug may indeed be just what we need during times of conflict.
A sample of 404 adults were interviewed every night for 14 consecutive days about their conflicts, hug receipt, and positive and negative affect. Results indicated that hugging can enormously soften the mood changes associated with fighting. The study found those who’d received hugs on the same day as a conflict didn’t have their positive emotions dampened as much by the fight, and the bad emotions stirred up were less intense. In other words, that personal touch doesn’t just temporarily mask the conflict or sweep it under the rug—it actually lowered the negativity surrounding the situation.
This effect was seen across all genders and ages in the study – “Our results are consistent with the conclusion that both men and women may benefit equally from being hugged on days when conflict occurs,” the study reads.
My personal truth is that when my husband and I are at loggerheads over any topic, all he need do is smile or hold my hand and I’m disarmed immediately. Interpersonal touch goes a long way making me feel the closeness that we both know exists between us, it’s about the act—the tangible, emotional support that the hug represents.
“Hugging helps to develop closeness, trust, and foster a sense of mutual understanding and caring,” says Dr. Ruhoy, who herself makes a habit of hugging her patients to establish a strong connection with them. “The act of hugging also releases oxytocin stored in the pituitary gland, which is often affectionately referred to as the ‘love hormone’ because it helps us bond with our newborns. That feeling of love, familiarity, and fellowship is why we have the instinct to hug our children, our parents, and our friends.”
So when it doubt, hug it out!