Arguing with your beloved puts you down in the dumps, but there’s evidence a simple little gesture will make both of you feel better. Give your significant other a hug! You’ll end the day on a brighter note, and your relationship will be healthier. A new study suggests that just reaching out and touching someone can help make the bad feelings after a disagreement go away. The study from the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, found hugging helped banish crummy feelings left over from conflict or a negative event.
Human touch may play a large role in happiness and conflict resolution. Researchers found that getting a hug was associated with an increase in positive mood markers and a decrease in negative ones. “Hugs may be a simple yet effective method of providing support to both men and women experiencing interpersonal distress,” the authors of the study concluded.
They said this in research lingo: “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.”
Study participants reported fewer negative feelings and more positive emotions on days when they got a hug after a conflict. Hurt feelings increased on days when they saw conflict but were left unhugged.
Age, sex, race, marital status, and education made no difference. The happiness effect was felt by all genders and ages in the study, although women reported more hugs than men. “Our results are consistent with the conclusion that both men and women may benefit equally from being hugged on days when conflict occurs,” according to the researchers.
Researchers interviewed 404 adults every night for two weeks about their relationships and conflicts. They asked about partners, interpersonal conflict, whether participants received a hug and their mood. Mood-related benefits of hugging weren’t limited to those in romantic relationships, researchers found.
Pinpointing exactly the kind of social relationships involved in a hug could improve further research, suggests the author of the study. For example, would you receive the same benefit from hugging a stranger or someone you were arguing with that you would get from hugging a lover or your Mom?
Author of the study is Michael Murphy, a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon.
It doesn’t matter who wins the disagreement. Hugging it out may be the best way to end an argument with your sweetie!