If you are having a rough day, science says a hug can help you feel better

“Our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict.”

When you spend a day arguing with your boss, the exhausting experience can put you in a rotten mood by the end of the day. If you want to feel better, you may want to ask for more hugs from your support network. A new study published in PLOS One found that hugs can provide the stress buffer your mood needs to stay uplifted.

How hugs help us after a fight 

For the study, the researchers interviewed 404 adults every night for two straight weeks about the conflicts they had, the hugs they received, and their general positive and negative effect throughout the day. They found that participants who had conflicts with another person showed a smaller decrease in positive emotions and a smaller increase in negative emotions when they also got a hug, compared with participants who did not get a hug. Both men and women benefited equally from the power of a hug.

The participants were not asked from whom and from where they got their hugs from, so there are still questions about the logistics behind how to give the most supportive hug.

“We still have questions about when, how, and for whom hugs are most helpful,” Michael Murphy, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict.”

If you are in distress, a friendly touch, when given consensually, can be a simple yet effective way to help your shaky body remember that you are cared for and loved. Other studies have found that hugging can lower the stress hormone cortisol.  “Just somebody simply touching our arm and holding it, buffers the physiological consequences of this stressful response,” Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist, said. Before a high-stakes event, the comfort of a hug can even calm your nerves. One study found that 20-second hug from a partner lowered the heart rates of participants who had to give a public speech.

Ultimately, when you remember that there is a supportive, loving world outside of your stressed brain, the everyday struggles of combative clients and difficult bosses become easier to bear.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.