National Hugging Day

National Hugging Day - Tuesday, January 21, 2025

Relationship Friendship Love Mental Health

What is National Hugging Day?

Open up your heart … and your arms, this January 21 for National Hugging Day! As you might guess, this day is an annual event dedicated to the underrated art form of the hug. We love all types of hugs, from the one-armed bro hug to full bear hugs. So let’s get hugging!

History of National Hugging Day

National Hugging Day was created in 1986 by Kevin Zaborney. His friend was the granddaughter of the proprietors of Chase’s Calendar of Events. Zaborney chose January 21 because it was the time between the winter holiday season and the new year’s birthdays, which he noticed was a time people tend to feel  low in spirits. He also felt that Americans were often too embarrassed to show affection in public and hoped National Hugging Day would change that, though he never actually thought it would catch on.
The word “hug” is believed to come from the word “hugga” meaning “to comfort” in the Old Norse language, first appearing approximately 450 years ago. However, the history of hugging itself is a bit more uncertain. What is known is that it is only very recently (within the past 50 years) that we have seen a full acceptance of hugging in public, separating it from other distinguished displays of affection such as kissing. The widespread adoption of hugging over the recent years has been debated to be due to two primary reasons: the reduced formality of dress code and manners between relationships, along with the changing behaviors of political figures in pursuit of a more relatable, warm-hearted perception to the public. 
Nowadays, we don’t even think about the fact that hugging in public was considered indecent PDA. We hug to greet friends and family, to say goodbye, or to congratulate someone. To console someone or to show support. We hug before sports and performance teams begin their match, and to show a general sign of affection between intimate relationships. There are also Free Hugs charity fundraisers! 

National Hugging Day timeline


A political embrace

Chris Christie and Barak Obama share a brief embrace on the President's visit to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.


Joy Spreads

National Hugging Day is a hit in Germany


National Hugging Day is Born

According to one of the top Detroit PR Firms, National Hugging Day was first celebrated on January 21, 1986 in Clio, Michigan


Hug joins the lexicon

Derived from the Old Norse word "hugga" or to comfort, the OG hug enters vocabularies around this time.

National Hugging Day FAQs

Is there a National Hugging Day?

There absolutely is! National Hugging Day happens once a year on January 21. This year, the day is on a Tuesday

What happens when you hug someone for 20 seconds?

Studies show a 20 second hug relieves and reduces the harmful physical effects of stress and releases oxytocin. 

Why are hugs so powerful?

The act of hugging can be incredibly soothing and healing, and is a physical way of confirming your presence in someone’s life. It’s why we hug when we’re sad, when we’ve gotten great news, and after we’ve had a stressful day.

National Hug Day Stats

12 hugs a day
You might not actively think about how many times you’re hugging someone a day, but apparently, reaching a specific “hugging quota” is crucial for your development. Family therapist Virginia Satir says “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” It sounds like a lot, but you might be fulfilling the numbers easily without even thinking about it on a daily basis! We can thank our friends, family, and loved ones for that! 
32% stress-buffering
In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effect of perceived social support and the receipt of hugs on the participants’ susceptibility to developing the common cold after being exposed to the virus. People who perceived greater social support were less likely to come down with a cold, and researchers calculated that the stress-buffering effects of hugging explained 32% of that beneficial effect. Even among those who got a cold, those who felt greater social support and received more frequent hugs had less severe symptoms.
20 seconds for the perfect hug
Though the average hug with a friend or family member is about 3 seconds long (a quick embrace before continuing a conversation), longer hugs — 20 seconds is recommended — are beneficial to your health. During a hug, we release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety. It’s often called the “cuddle hormone,” and when it’s released during these 20 second hugs it can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine. 

National Hugging Day Activities

  1. Hug a friend

    We’re sure you have tons of friends, you're popular person. And with tons of friends comes tons of hugs. Close your eyes and think about how much you love your friend when hugging him or her. Next, press as much as you feel like without squeezing too tight. Try out different hug variations with different friends and perfect your perfect hug. A hug is just like a handshake; everyone knows how to do it, but it takes a true master to do it right.

  2. Hug a stranger

    In this age of social disconnection and lack of human contact, most people are unsure how to go about hugging random people. However, hugging a stranger is more therapeutic than you think; the effects of giving free hugs to strangers are phenomenal. One method we suggest is holding a “free hugs” sign. That way, you know that the stranger consents to the hug you’re about to give them. It’s a lot less awkward and inappropriate than trying to hug a random stranger on the subway!

  3. Hug yourself

    Getting a hug is a great feeling. It can instantly lift your mood, making you feel safe and appreciated. Sometimes, however, there isn’t anybody around to give you that hug you need. When you need it the most, wrap your hands around yourself and hug yourself tightly. You might think that’s weird, but hear us out. Friends are great, but you’re the star of your own life. And you should love yourself like a star! That means making lots of time for self-care and self-love. So self-hug away.

Why We Love National Hugging Day

  1. Hugging builds trust

    The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication. Hugs instantly help increase oxytocin levels, which heal and combat feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. We can all take a lesson from this: next time, when you feel like fighting with your significant other, stop … and give your significant other a hug instead. It will give you time to calm down and remind you two of your close connection.

  2. Hugging is healthy

    Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum creates an emotional charge that activates the solar plexus chakra. This in turn stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells. Hugs also affect the nervous system. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system post-hug. What does this all mean in English? It just means that hugs are good for you! They’re good for your emotional state, but they’re also good for your physical body. One might even say that hugs are the best medicine! (That being said, if you get sick, please go to a doctor. We’re not joking.)

  3. Hugs may alleviate our fears

    Scientists found that hugging — even if it was just an inanimate object like a teddy bear — helps soothe individuals’ existential fears. Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that can simulate touch by another person help instill a sense of existential significance. If you think about it, you’ll understand why: it doesn’t matter if we’re a tiny speck in the universe as long as you’re loved.

Also on Tue Jan 21, 2025...

Hugging Day
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