Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

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.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

To read more of Gretchen’s post, click here.

  • Mike Leach

    Wonderful, simple truths! Backed up by experts: “Hugging, goooood!” — Homer Simpson “Act for God then, act for God’s sake!” — Zooey to Franny

  • Christal

    Antidepressants are a drug! Like any other drug are very addictive. They have many many other terrible (very common) side effects. Anything from seizures, to death, to homicide you basically name it. Furthermore it tricks the mind and body into thinking it’s working at first with no positive effects of future use. Look into making diet changes first (a vegan diet is very helpful). Hope you find a more positive way to live.

  • Diane

    Antidepressants are simply serotonin enhancers. I got tired of feeling numb all of the time. When I was manic, at least I was feeling. So I quit over eight years ago and decided to really take responsibility for my life. I identified bitterness and unforgiveness in my life that had to be dealt with.
    Depression is a form of anger turned towards yourself. I had to discover why I was doing that and deal with it.
    So grateful for finding the book, A More Excellent Way. Prior to that I was also fascinated by Nouwen. But I found that there is so much more.
    It is not as much about seeking as it about a relationship with a living God.

  • paul L

    sign me up I want to maximize the flow of such positive chemicals, if I have to hold a hug for 6 seconds I am willing to make the sacrifice.

  • Your Name

    My son, who is a Marine stationed in Iraq, was going through a tough time emotionally, just before going over to Iraq. He was talking under his breath about his dilemma and said, “I could sure use a hug.” One of his Marine buddies overheard him and said, “Hell, I’ll give you a hug.” And he did. I wonder who benefited most from the hug. I suspect both of them did so equally. I loved Leo Buscaglia. He said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” I think the hug is fine medicine and listening and a tender touch go a long way to saying I love you with only the best of intentions. But sometimes it’s nice to hear the words I love you – clearly and distinctly. Men will abbreviate to avoid appearing weak or, worse yet, gentle. We say Luv Ya as if the shortened form will explain I love you but only as much as a real man does. Isn’t that funny/silly. I’ve changed my approach as I’ve aged. Not only do I want to say I love you clearly and distinctly – if that doesn’t get the message across, I hope I can show you. And for each of us needing that hug or tender touch – I love you. Franco,

  • jen

    I completely agree with the article, but I’m dumbfounded at the ill-understood comments about anti-depressants by some people! Anti-depressants have a VERY low rate of side effects, and most are just minor annoyances like dry mouth. There is NO link to anti-depressants and homicide. Please CITE your accusations. I hate hate hate ignorant remarks that suggest changing your “diet” to ward off mental illness. PLEASE educate yourselves.

  • Your Name

    I loved this post when I read it on Gretchen’s blog, and it is great to read in again in the context of dealing with depression. I’m not really sure how the antidepressant bashing fits into this though. Who knew Tom Cruise posted here!

  • Lyn

    Poor timing with swine flu raging. Throwq me a kiss instead!

  • Your Name

    Hugs, kisses, touches all have their places. A discerning heart will know when the time is right and these things are needed. Thank you

  • Mike

    Related to the subject of this article, I’ve heard it said that we need 3-4 hugs a day to be emotionally healthy. So don’t hold back on huggin’!
    As for “Your Name”‘s wondering about the antidepressant trolls, the comments have nothing to do with the article. They have an agenda and will post it everywhere here (and other places) where they can. You can’t argue with them; their mind is made up and have no interest in being confused by the facts. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing an active moderation policy on the comments so that those who abuse their access to this forum have their comments deleted. It’s not restricting freedom of speech; it’s throwing out the bums who have the arrogance to come in and spray graffiti on the walls.

  • Shakti

    Touching and hugging are very powerful survival tools. I am a registered nurse and have witness premature babies thriving on regular human touch, adults who are depressed benefit tremendously also. Actually anybody can be happier with genuine loving hugs, it keeps me alive and joyful. Start spreading hugs and see for yourself.

  • Jerry Kimble

    Yes I agree hugs touching and loving are very important. There is way too much hatred in the world today. And those who are not wanting to be touched and hugged have the most need for it. However they do not realize and will argue that is not the problem. The poet knows and the songs says we don’t need another hero, the other song says the world needs love. This is true now more than ever the world is short on love.

  • kmc

    Need help with depression, If you know of anyone I could talk to would be great.

  • Larry Parker

    Wonderful and rightly hopeful post (as this newly married man can attest), but I do want to add a corollary.
    While hugs and physical affection can obviously come from platonic relationships, most of us (whether straight or gay) would like romantic relationships. So how do you make a relationship work when you find someone who seems like the right person — especially if they do NOT suffer with a mood disorder?
    For your prospective partner to accept that mood disorders are ultimately no different than say, diabetes or severe allergies (which my wife has) is a non-negotiable start. But after that — in addition to the relationship-building you have to do together in any case, of course — most of it is up to you.
    Given that I was already at a low place in my life when I met Ana, I already knew I had to rebuild my mental strength. In retrospect, I think of it as a mental marathon. Yes, I had (finally) proper doses and combinations of medicine to help, but it involved so much therapy to reframe my thoughts. So much interaction here to be reminded I wasn’t alone. So much exercise to try to change my body (and while Ana’s cooking has made me a bit less toned, I’m still 50 pounds lighter than when everyone here at Beliefnet met me). So much determination to train myself to just go to work all those days when I didn’t want to get out of bed (and it usually ended up fine, I realized).
    You may say you don’t have the strength to do all this, and I can empathize, since in other relationships after my divorce (heck, including my first marriage), I didn’t, either. But when I met the right person, I did. And while I read all the dating manuals too about going out to church/synagogue groups, volunteering, and of course nightclubs to get yourself out to meet quantities of people, I would say it’s more simple yet (for us) also more complicated. Just be OPEN to the experiences you have with others, in whatever context. If you’re in a particularly tough place, they might even be experiences online, as mine were :-)
    And now I have someone to hug and someone to kiss and someone to sustain me when I’m down (I had a tough night Friday after a brutal day at work, yet snapped back far more quickly than I used to). And it’s my fervent prayer that everyone reading this already has that person — or will soon.
    We of all people deserve it.

  • nancy schmall

    facing big surgery and have been abused and abandoned.

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