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All You Need Is Hugs

by Jean McGuire in Society

There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

Wow, that’s a lot of hugs. As a single person, it’s hard for me to conceptualize giving and receiving that many hugs a day. As a result, I think I may have become a “hug whore.” When I’m at church or at the gym, I hug everyone who comes anywhere near me. I hope people aren’t starting to avoid me because of this.

Research shows that hugging is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. – Seema Sinha, “The Benefits of Hugging,” India Times (all other quotes from this article are noted with an *)

It’s funny to see how people react to the simple act of holding out your arms for a hug. There are those who come in enthusiastically and give hugs that almost bring tears to your eyes. I have a friend at the gym who gives such great hugs I have to work to keep from crying. Her hugs feel so good and supportive my eyes just start leaking.

*Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood leading to happiness.

There are also those who are uncomfortable with hugging. I know of one man who keeps at least a foot of air between himself and the person he’s hugging. It makes me sad that he doesn’t feel comfortable coming in for a full-on hug. To be honest, it makes me sad for two reasons: 1) that he shuts himself off from the comfort of human contact and 2) he is one heck of a good looking man and it would please my ego to get a real hug from him.

*Hugging boosts self-esteem. Everybody wants to be loved and treated special. 

I never realized that for some people there s an etiquette to hugging until a friend of mine complained about how new men in her life would pat her back when giving her a hug. This particular friend felt that a pat on the back while hugging was dismissive. I’m not sure I agree. I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced a “bad” hug.

*Hugs are like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs get you out of your circular thinking patterns and connect you with your heart and your feelings and your breath.

WikiHow has a long, illustrated, article on How to Hug It gives instructions on how to hug a crush, how to hug a friend, how to hug a lover, how to hug a family member and tips for hugging on any occasion. I never realized hugging was so complicated. I know that a hug is a connection. A grand, feel-good, physical connection. If you lean in close enough, you can feel the other person’s breath on your cheek. If you get really close, you can feel the beating of their heart.

*Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us how love flows both ways.

If I were to define types of hug, my list would be considerably different than the article on WikiHow. There are hugs between friends when they greet each other. There are hugs between a parent and a child. There are hugs between lovers who are learning each other’s ins and outs, literally and figuratively. There are the hugs between people when they know that there will be a long period of time before they see each other again. There are the hugs when a friend is in pain and needs comfort. There are the social hugs when you see a friend.

*The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding.

The one constant in every article I read on hugging is that when you hug, hug like you mean it. As I think of all the hugs I’ve witnessed and participated in, I don’t think that advice is necessary. I think if the hug is welcome, then enthusiasm doesn’t need to be coached. If the hug is insincere or awkward, the odds are good that at least one of the parties didn’t really want to participate. (Think of the young boy making faces as his grandmother or elderly aunt enfolds him in a cloud of talcum and hairspray.)

*Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.

What’s my favorite hug? Oh my, it’s the hug where the two huggers just melt into each other. It can be in a number of situations, but my favorite is the young child being held by his or her parent. There is something endearing beyond words when I see a child wrapping their entire body around the person they trust most in the world. The love that shines through in those moments is a pure, true love that we can spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate.

*Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us how love flows both ways.

I would like to ask everyone reading this post to do me a favor today: Give someone a hug. A big hug. A  hug that you really, truly give yourself over to.

*Many thanks to for letting me use their article to build my post around.

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