American psychologist Harry Harlow was interested in the debate surrounding the role of the mother. Some scholars argued that a mother’s role is to provide food for the baby, while others argued for the importance of the mother’s tender loving care for the baby. To investigate this, Harlow created two “mothers” for a group of infant rhesus macaques (species of monkeys). One mother was made of wire and wood and the other made of soft cloth to simulate the physical contact of an actual mother monkey. The twist was that only the wire mother provided milk for the infant. Despite this, an overwhelming number of infant macaques chose the cloth mother over the wire mother, choosing physical contact over nourishment. It was found that when given the two choices, the infants would visit the wire mother only for a feed, then would cling to the cloth mother the rest of the time. Harlow concluded that the mother’s role is not only to feed the young, but to provide them with “contact comfort” through physical contact.
Hugging is a form of physical contact found in almost every culture across the globe. It non-verbally communicates to the other person that you love and care for them and that you are compassionate for their happiness. It can provide the warmth, comfort, support and security the other person may need at the end of a tough day.
The act of hugging induces a massive release of oxytocin into your system, giving you the sensation of happiness and connection. It reduces your blood pressure and dissolves anxiety, making you feel more at peace. The behaviour of hugging is seen in a mother holding her child, a child cuddling a teddy bear, a couple communicating their affection, or two friends sharing a moment of happiness.
When two people hug, they become something more than a simple group of two people. In that moment of a hug, the two people enter a transcendent zone filled with only love and happiness, where they are protected from the sorrows and evils of the world. It is the physical form of human connection. In other words, a hug is the closest thing to the physical manifestation of true happiness.