About that 20-second hug...

About that 20-second hug...

The Power of the 20-Second Hug

Some background on the 20-second hug: The Howell Foundation celebrated its annual Health and Happiness Series with the presentation “Hormones and Happiness” in October. Throughout the presentation, Dr. Banka addressed the roles different hormones play in our bodies.    Understanding the differences between men and women has everything to do with the hormones we produce in our bodies, and nothing to do with stereotype differences.   In other words, there IS a reason why we act like we do.   Spoiler alert:  even though estrogen and testosterone are typically associated with women and men respectively, these hormones are not gender-exclusive.  Both women and men produce them, just in different quantities and with different outcomes.

As a matter of fact, women and men produce different hormones in different stages and circumstances in their lives.  The hormones women produce when falling in love are not the same as those produced when looking for a partner to settle down.  Did you know that finding a significant other to settle down with will depend on the woman’s stage in her cycle?  Falling in love produces different hormones than those produced when we form a long-term attachment with a partner.

Men’s bodies react to stress significantly differently than women’s bodies.  “Fight or flight’ (a predominantly male response) and ‘tend and befriend’(a predominantly female response) are now recognized as gender-specific traits when facing stress in our lives; even if it took over 70 years to include women in stress-related studies.  Regardless of gender, one thing is for certain.  Stress and the methods in which we cope, or not, with stress are intrinsically related to our health.   Research shows that stress reduces the size of the telomeres on our chromosomes, which accelerates aging.  Stress also impairs our ability to combat disease.   Some recommendations on what to do when facing stress are getting enough sleep, exercising, leaving work at work, and finding a mechanism to create a state of ‘flow’.

But the most effective way to deal with stress is a 20-second hug.  Don’t count, just do it!  Research shows that a 20-second hug can:

  • Lower your blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lower your anxiety
  • Ease your sadness
  • Lower your cortisol – one stress hormone
  • Increase your levels of oxytocin – our “feel good” hormone

So hugs to all who attended the “Hormones and Happiness” event.   Thank you for your continuous support!


About the Doris A. Howell Foundation: 
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community. 


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