A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away.”
January 21, is National Hugging Day, and there is still time to make a list of people in your life that need hugs. There is still time to stop and think about the meaning, benefits, and varieties of hugs. We bump our heads against the brick walls of life every day in this impersonal, hug deprived society that we have created for ourselves. Most of us have an inner child who needs a hug- not a romantic or sexual type hug which given and taken out of context can be misinterpreted and provoke leering looks or lawsuits, but a friendship hug.
The healing, empathetic, heart print kind of hug is the suitable and beneficial hug for National Hugging Day and for the rest of the year. Good hugs are universal expressions of concern and support. National Hugging Day is the time to begin a ritual of empathetic, supportive hugs.
Hugging is Good for Your Body and Your Soul
In a 2006 study, researchers at the University of North Carolina discovered that hugs increase the hormone oxytocin and decrease the risk of heart disease. Lead researcher and psychologist Dr. Karen Grewen discovered in a previous study that hugging and hand holding reduces the effects of stress. Hugging benefits to your body include reducing stress, decreasing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure and fighting insomnia. Hugs have a positive effect in a child's development and IQ.
Hugs produce physiological changes in the huggers and the hugees. Dolores Krieger, R.N., Ph.D., is a professor of nursing at New York University and an expert in touch therapy. According to Dr. Krieger, one person hugging another stimulates the level of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin to the tissues. When the tissues receive increased oxygen they have new energy that rejuvenates the body.
Therapist Kathleen Keating says in the introduction to her Hug Therapy Book that the easy, free gift people can give each other is the power of touch. According to Keating, elderly, disabled, terminally ill and long term care residents have acute needs, but their most basic needs are “your kind hand holding theirs and a hug from your heart.
The gift of touch is the most powerful healing you can offer another, and it is the most powerful healing you can give yourself. Give generously and watch yourself grow rich in what matters the most. Hug often, hug well…” Keating writes in her book that research in the hugging field has shown that hugging helps reduce senility in people over 70 and substantially improves development in newborns. Hugging increases liveliness, curiosity, problem-solving abilities and physical well being.
Emotional benefits of giving and receiving hugs include warding off depression, reducing anxiety, relieving grief and loneliness, increasing self esteem and enhancing feelings of belonging. Hugs make us feel better about ourselves and our surroundings.
A Brief History of Hugging
In Latin American countries, it is customary for men friends to greet each other with hugs as well as slaps on the back on festive occasions like celebrating the New Year. Western women often greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek to express joy at meeting and sorrow at parting.
Recently, teenage girls have started the fad of greeting each other and saying goodbye with a hug. In May 2009, the New York Times reported that in the United States, “the hug as become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days.”
In February 2010, Jeff Ondash, 51, set a new Guinness World record for hugging. The Ohio man who hugged outside the Paris Las Vegas Hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip to set his record, dressed as his alter ego Teddy McHuggin. He bestowed 7,777 hugs in 24 hours for a new world record.
He said, “When you hug somebody, they all walk away from each other smiling. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away; a hug a day – it’s just fun.”
Hugs and Huggers
Hugs are multipurpose and multicultural. In the Roman Catholic Mass, during the kiss of peace ritual, a hug may be substituted for a kiss or handshake. Many Protestants attending church services hug each other hello, hug during the welcome part of the service, and hug each other goodbye.
Children hug dolls, stuffed animals, live animals, and parents. Children have an uncanny ability to match their hugs to the hugees and find the spots that need hugging the most. They can also turn hugs into presents.
Nature lovers hug trees and appreciate the wonders of nature on planet earth. Sometimes they circle the trees with their arms and hug each other.
How to Hug Effectively
Some people are better huggers than others, but everyone can learn to hug and match their hugs to the comfort level of the hugee.
Walk up to your hugging target from a few feet away with your arms open. When you reach the hugee, wrap your arms around the general vicinity of their midsection. Hold the hug for a few seconds, and then release. Approach a family hug cautiously, but hopefully. Family feuds sometimes block hugs, but forgiveness makes them stronger.
Hug a friend affectionately.
Use humor in your hugging.
Hug in Morse Code.
Make Up Secret Hugs.
Hug Loosely. Let your hugee determine how tightly or loosely they want you to hug them by how hard they squeeze. If they squeeze lightly, squeeze lightly back. If they give you a bear hug, give them a bear hug back. Regulate your hugs so that you both survive to hug another day.
Hang on to your hug. A long, loving hug can communicate how much you care. Sustain the hug until the hugee lets go.
Remember, the best hug comes from one heart and touches another heart.
Bolton, Martha. The Official Hugs Book. Howard Books, 2002
Keating, Kathleen. The Hug Therapy Books. Hazelden Publishing, 1995
McDonnell, Patrick. Hug Time. Little Brown Brooks for Young Readers, 2007
Ross, Dave. A Book of Hugs. Harper Festival, 2001