Hugs may have healing properties (beyond making you feel warm and fuzzy). This flu season add a hug a day to your regimen--it may help lessen your symptoms should you fall ill, according to one study.

The find was published in Psychological Science and highlighted in Carnegie Mellon University's news by Shilo Rea. Researchers wanted to assess what social support and hugs had on illness. The study singled-out participants that may be more susceptible to a cold's symptoms because of their heightened level of stress in their lives.

The team took 404 adult participants and assessed their perceived level of social support through a questionnaire. Every evening for two weeks, researchers would call participants to inquire about any conflicts in their lives in order to assess their level of stress and how many hugs they received to measure social support. Participants were then intentionally exposed to the common cold and put in quarantine to monitor their symptoms.

The results showed that social support did dictate how bad the symptoms progressed. Those that had a daily helping of hugs had less severe symptoms. Overall, it helped if participants had a great perception of social support and hugs whether or not they were under a great deal of stress. The led by Sheldon Cohen, Professor of Psychology at the Robert E. Doherty University, noted in a press release:

"This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress. The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy."

One other study, published back in 2010 in the journal of Developmental Review, showed that there was a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure with participants who received massage therapy. Researchers also reported a boost in their immune systems, increasing their “natural killer cells,” as well as decreasing their cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress).

It's possible that a dose of hugs may be a more welcome immune booster during the cold and flu season. So, instead of running out to buy a pack of vitamin C, consider giving a friend or loved one a hug. But make sure you're not in a state to pass on any infections in the process.

Read more at Carnegie Mellon University News

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