During my final semester of undergrad, I made two signs that read, “Feeling stressed about exams? Have a free hug!” Then I recruited a friend and we stood in the entrance of the campus library, held up the signs, and waited. Passerbys had one of two reactions: Either they quickly looked down at their phones and awkwardly shuffled by, or their faces lit up as they embraced us. Most people were enthusiastic. Some exclaimed, “You made my day!” or “Thank you. I needed this.” One leapt into my arms, nearly toppling me over. After two hours of warm interactions, my friend and I couldn’t believe how energized and happy we felt.
A study published earlier this month suggests that, in addition to making us feel connected with others, all those hugs may have prevented us from getting sick. At first, this finding probably seems counterintuitive (not to mention bizarre). You might think, like I did, that hugging hundreds of strangers would increase your exposure to germs and therefore the likelihood of falling ill. But the new research out of Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness. This research adds to a large amount of evidence for the positive influence of social support on health.
Read the whole story: Scientific American