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Regardless of whether you consider yourself a “hugger” or not, odds are you’re likely to experience your fair share of hugs over the course of your lifetime. While you may consider hugs a commonplace greeting, a bad hug can leave you feeling awkward and uncomfortable. A good hug, on the other hand, can lift your mood—and even make you feel aroused. Recent research backs this up. (Yes, really.)
Scientists recently conducted two studies aimed at determining the characteristics of a good hug. The results of these studies were published in Acta Psychologica. In the first study, researchers examined the impact of hug duration and arm positioning on how pleasing a hug felt to the participants—45 college students. Each of them took part in six different hugs that mixed three different hug duration times (one second, five seconds, 10 seconds) with two arm-crossing styles—neck-waist, like what’s pictured above, and criss-cross style, with one arm around the neck and one around the waist.
The second study examined how gender, height, and emotional closeness between partners impacted the style of a hug. Using a different set of participants, researchers found that height and emotional closeness didn’t impact the chosen hug style of participants. However, the gender of participants did appear to impact their hug style. Hugs comprising of two women or one man and one woman were more likely to be a neck-waist hug. But in hugs consisting of two men, criss-cross style was more common.
So, what exactly is the best kind of hug?
If you’re a short-duration hugger, you may want to rethink your hugs. Researchers asked participants to rate their mood immediately after, three minutes after, and six minutes after each hug. The best combination, according to the research? Longer duration hugs (lasting more than five seconds). Additionally, participants reported feeling the most positive and aroused immediately after the hug. Their feelings slowly dissipated as time went on. In this study, the arm-crossing style did not impact the mood of the participants.
OK, but what if you’re not a hugger? You may want to consider becoming one. Another study conducted by researchers in 2014 found that frequent hugs can eliminate stress and help you fight off illness more easily. So, the next time you’re feeling a little down? Find a good friend—and partake in a hug lasting longer than five seconds. You may walk away in a better mood.