I’m a “hugger.” Yeah, I’m one of those gregarious nuts who reaches out and hugs people. Whether I’m saying “hello” or “goodbye,” if you’re in my world, you’ll probably get a hug from me. You see, I have this belief most of us suffer from “hug deprivation.” Think about it. During the day, don’t you touch a machine more than any other human, right?
I’ve made hugging is my personal quest.
I attribute this trait from my Italian heritage. When I was a child, I was expected to greet my aunts and uncles with a kiss and a hug when we entered their homes; we had to repeat the process when we left. It didn’t kill us. We didn’t think anything about it. It was normal. Our family greeting was a sign of love and respect. And if you didn’t do it the minute you stepped foot in an elder’s home, you’d get a clip on the back of the head with a parent asking, “Hey! You forgot something!”
Hugging is more than a gesture of greeting, though. It’s a human need. Our skin is our antennae that “feels” the world. We feel love through hugging. We feel acceptance through hugging. Even good chemicals that save us from heart disease are released when we hug each other. We NEED HUGS. And I’m not just talking through my liberal, touchy-feelly self, either. If you don’t believe me, take a look at all the studies out on the Internet. (And we all know that everything on the Internet is true.)
But seriously, this simple act of hugging has physical and emotional healing power. Here’s a list I edited from Kathleen Keating “Hug Therapy”:
– it feels good; it’s natural–even organic!
– it cures loneliness and depression
– it overcomes fear
– it opens doors to feelings
– builds self-esteem (WOW, SHE actually hugged me!)
– fosters altruism (I can’t believe it but I actually want to hug that old son-of-a-gun!)
– slows down aging (huggers stay younger longer)
– helps curb appetite (We eat less when we are nourished by hugs and when our arms are busy wrapped around others we can’t pick up a fork.)
– eases tension
– provides stretching exercise (if you are short)
– provides stooping exercise (if you are tall)
– it strengthens your immune system
– offers a healthy, safe alternative to alcohol and other drug abuse (better hugs than drugs!)
– affirms physical being and a connection with another human being
That’s a pretty long list, wouldn’t you say?
If you’re not a hugger, give it a try. Get comfortable reaching out to others. It’s been my experience if you hug a person who isn’t used to the activity, the next time you’re together, they will initiate the hug. If they are a hard-core, non-hugger, it may take more than one hug to get the ball rolling. But it will be worth the effort for both of you.