Want to Be Happier? Kiss More, Hug More, Love More


I’ve always known that my sensitivity and deep affection for people can often become a source of my depression. There are many days I wish I didn’t care so much … you know, about the woman in the back of the room crying. Does everyone else not see her? How am I supposed to enjoy this party when she is suffering so much?…. that kind of thing. 

But Gretchen Rubin writes a fascinating piece about how being more affectionate–touching and hugging and kissing more–can actually make us happier. 
In a recent post called “Be Happier: Kiss More, Hug More,” she writes: 

Interesting fact: to be most effective at optimizing the flow of the chemicals oxytocin and serotonin – which boost mood and promote bonding – hold a hug for at least six seconds.

Along with hugging, playful and affectionate touching makes you feel closer to the people important to you. And touch is important even with strangers — studies show that subliminal touching (touching so subtle that it’s not consciously perceived) dramatically increases a person’s sense of well-being and positive feelings toward you, the toucher. For example, research shows that when restaurant servers touch their customers, they increase their tips by more than 3 percent.

Expressing affection (in whatever way you express it) makes a big difference in relationships. For instance, people are 47% more likely to feel close to family members who frequently express affection than to those who rarely do so.

But there’s another reason to express affection. One of my most important Personal Commandments is to Act the way I want to feel. We think we act because of the way we feel, but often, we feel because of the way we act. By acting in a loving way, you prompt loving feelings in yourself. It’s much harder to be angry or annoyed with someone when you’re kissing or hugging or touching.

Her logic made me think of Henri Nouwen’s meditation, “Love Deeply”:

Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. …Thus the pain of rejection, absence, and death can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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4 Responses
  1. Tracy Mitchell Griggs

    I kiss and hug my dog. More enjoyable than people 🙂 I really do not enjoy people that much, preferring dogs of all stripes.

  2. Sean

    Thanks for the reminder! I can tell the difference when my wife and I are more affectionate. There is even research that shows that sports teams perform better the more they touch each other; high fives, fist bumps, pats on the back or butt.