I have a confession to make. I’m a hug junkie. As in, I love receiving hugs!! Really warm, big, heartfelt hugs. Perhaps some of my most memorable hugging experiences have been the hugs I’ve received from a child. Simply nothing beats the sheer abandon, sincerity, love and joy with which children hug. There is none of the adult awkwardness, the personal space boundaries or potential sexual tension…nothing that limits its expansiveness. It’s a hug in the fullest sense of the word. And if that doesn’t turn a day around, I don’t know what would.
A good hug to me feels like a micro massage—it hits all the right places at once, makes me feel comforted and validated, and reduces stress. If it’s really good I can’t help but start giggling—it’s as if my body’s automatic stress reduction naturally promotes that response. For a few minutes I am that much more content. All is well in the world. I have been hugged today.
Beyond cultures, countries and language, hugs connect us so profoundly to each other. Psychologists say when we hug someone it releases oxytocin, also known as ‘the cuddle hormone.’ That’s what makes us feel warm inside. This is what promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding. Research has found that hugs can reduce our stress levels and improve our overall sense of well-being. So why don’t we just hug each other more?
I believe that more hugging would help us nurture the spirit of love, compassion, oneness and belonging that we all need and want in our lives. The intimate connection of an embrace, the deep connectivity, the natural removal of personal space boundaries, and the fact that so many of our senses are naturally aroused in such close proximity (touch, smell, sound, sight), allows us to bond with each other more. It breaks down walls. It fosters freedom of expression. It engenders trust.
Hugs convey so much. They express our joy when we greet someone. It’s a way of providing comfort and assurance to a loved one in times of grief or sadness. A hug is the gesture of choice when we want to congratulate someone. A hug is a way to show camaraderie and kinship to another. A hug is an expression of love: parent to child; sibling to sibling; lover to lover; friend to friend. Hugging conveys a sign of solidarity—to a cause, a mission, a movement. We hug when we say goodbye to someone.
It costs us nothing to hug another. It’s one of those mutually beneficial acts that we can so easily take for granted. The next time you hug someone, really hug them. Feel it on the outside and inside. Linger a second or two longer. Close your eyes. Breathe into the experience. Let those feel good hormones do their magic.
Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, freelance writer and editor, and marketing consultant. She consults with would be authors and writers on honing their “voice” so their words have the desired impact. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide: Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.