20 Seconds Is All It Takes

  • To release oxytocin
  • To lower blood pressure
  • To deactivate the sympathetic nervous system
  • To feel better

Are you a hugger? If your answer is no, read on and you  might reconsider. If your answer is yes, read on to reinforce a good habit.

I know right now many of you might be feeling like me – I am missing hugging. The elbow air bump just isn’t cutting it. Yes, I have my small circle of family around me who I can still hug, but I’m also a friend hugger and missing that too.

Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy said, “there is such a thing as not enough hugs…but never too many.” She said we need:

  • 4 hugs per day for survival
  • 8 hugs per day for maintenance
  • 12 hugs per day for growth

Did you know we all possess something called “skin hunger”. Yes, that’s right  – our skin, our largest organ – craves physical comfort. It seems that skin contact is essential for our overall well BE-ing!

Our skin protects us from the outside world and it is constantly sending messages to our brain – collecting data so to speak. Our fingertips, soles of our feet and lips are the most active collectors of data. (Yay yoga for bare feet and lots of fingertip contact.)

Now consider a HUG – skin to skin contact and the fingertip connection. Powerful.

When we are under stress, our body releases a chemical called cortisol. Cortisol slows down our ability to heal and allows us to create memories of things to avoid – things that cause or might cause us harm.

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is a feel good chemical that helps us to build trust, speed up healing and help release difficult memories. Oxytocin helps us connect with others and creates a sense of safety. When we hug someone for 20 seconds we get an oxytocin hit.

This makes hugging a two-sided feel good for both parties.  When a hug is given or received oxytocin is released. The next time you feel pain or see someone in pain, ask for or give a hug and see what happens.

Right now it might be hard to expand your hug circle but as much as you can try increasing the number and duration of the hugs you receive each day. Make an effort to give/receive 3, 20-second hugs a day.


We all know that self-care includes self-compassion and self-love. I would also recommend that everyday you hug yourself.  Watch my tutorial about how to give yourself a hug.


Being loving toward yourself or giving yourself a hug might seem/feel silly but what have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing and who knows it might just make you feel better!  Remember – hug yourself for 20 seconds.




  • 20 seconds is key
    • The huge effect starts in the thalamus (the brain’s emotional center) which sends out a feel good message to the brain and the body. Let your hug last for 20 seconds and you’re good to go.
  • Stress Release
    • The release of oxytocin from a hug offsets the release of cortisol which helps us feel more calm and reduces our flight or fight response.
  • Immune System Boost
    • Less stress equals a stronger immune system.
  • Lower Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
    • Research at UNC found women who received a 20 second hug from their partner during a stressful test were more likely to have lower blood pressure and heart rate. When you are feeling stressed, get a hug.
  • Reduced Depression
    • A hug can increase levels of dopamine and serotonin which can boost one’s mood and relieve symptoms of depression.