It might come from your significant other, your kid or a friend. But getting a hug at the end of a trying day really can make things a lot better.
A new study finds that a simple comforting embrace can ease stress and negative changes in mood after social conflict. The common gesture seems to increase positive emotions and reduce negative feelings on days when people have problems with their relationships.
For the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers interviewed more than 400 adults every night for two weeks. They were asked about their social activities that day, their mood and whether they received a hug, among other questions.
"Results indicated that there was an interaction between hug receipt and conflict exposure such that receiving a hug was associated with a smaller conflict-related decrease in positive affect and a smaller conflict-related increase in negative affect when assessed concurrently," according to the study.
Basically, hugs made people feel better.
Hugs benefit everyone
The researchers found that was true regardless of gender, age, race, marital status, number of social interactions and overall mood.
"A very simple, straightforward behavior — hugging — might be an effective way of supporting both men and women who are experiencing conflict in their relationships," co-author Michael Murphy, a post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity and Disease, tells Time.
The researchers say they'd like to continue their work to determine whether it makes a difference who gives the hug or when it's given in relation to the social conflict.
But a key takeaway is that a consensual hug can do a lot of good.
"This research is in its early stages," Murphy adds. "We still have questions about when, how, and for whom hugs are most helpful. However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict."