A hug — something we generally take for granted. We hug our family, we hug our kids good night, we sometimes greet others with hugs. However, a hug can be more than just an embrace. It can be a life-saving and positive act of health and well-being.
The simple hug that we take for granted can mean and offer so much. For one moment in time we come together with open arms, heart to heart and face to face. In his book, Touching: The Human Significance of Skin, Dr. Ashley Montagu states, “Hugging is health-enhancing because it reduces tension and stress, aids the immune system, helps with sleep, assists in building self-esteem and best of all has no negative side effects. When we open our hearts and arms to others, we inspire them to do likewise.”
So, consider a world where we did not hug at all, no friendly, heartfelt or romantic embraces. Would we be more stressed, would we have more sickness? Possibly so!
Hugs and embraces can ground you and have proven to be nurturing, supporting babies and adults alike to thrive. They have been proven beneficial in helping with depression, pain, and even anxiety. I personally believe a hug a day keeps the doctor away. According to University of North Carolina researchers, one extra 20-second hug can make a difference in how happy and relaxed you feel. (Source; Woman’s World 11/18/03.) Hugs can also bring about a bonding effect, can help to increase feelings of security and trust and can demonstrate appreciation. Hugs are just so beneficial that I cannot imagine what the world will be like without hugging.
There are different categories of hugs, of course, and we have all experienced them. First, there is the running hug; for example, the ones you receive in airports. Those hugs are so emotion-laden and tend to last longer, often conveying deeply-held and unspoken feelings. Hugs can also be romantically inspired and tend to be more intense, sometimes given from behind and often conveying especially intimate messages. Then there is the universal hug, the hug that you give to a friend: you just open your arms and embrace them.
Hugging is so important there is an actually National Hugging Day! In 2010 it was celebrated on January 21st.
I recently watched the HBO movie about Temple Grandin, who is autistic, and despite her disability earned a PH.D, but what I found most interesting was her ‘squeeze machine.’ Even though she did not want to be touched by people, she realized her need for a hug. Therefore, she invented something that would help her, to calm her down, and put her at ease – a machine that hugged her.
We all need to be hugged. In this age of technology sprawl, we are so often missing the human touch. Our stress levels are higher; insomnia and depression are on the rise, and anxiety abounds. What is the answer? Hug your kids, your family, your pets and your friends. Take time out each day to ask for a hug or to give a hug and experience the positive benefits all day long!