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National Hug Day: A Good Way to Reduce Stress?

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(NEW YORK) -- Monday was another holiday, though not the "official" type. A minister in Michigan had hoped people would celebrate it by showing love for their fellow man.  

Monday was National Hug Day, established by a pastor who thought the midpoint between Christmas and Valentines Day was an emotional low for many people.

But new research suggests not all hugs are healthy. While a caress from someone you love can lower your blood pressure, and boost memory and self esteem, an unwanted hug from a stranger can increase your stress.  

Scientists at the Medical University of Vienna, say the secret ingredient that makes a hug positive is trust. According to their research, the study authors say when a person is hugged by someone they know and trust, the body produces the peptide oxycotin -- or the "cuddle hormone." Oxycotin is known primarily for increased bonding behavior between children and their parents, and couples.

However, when a person is hugged by a stranger, or even if they receive an unwanted hug from someone they know, the body reacts by producing the stress hormone cortisol.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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