by Anna Marie Trotman

Hugging is definitely a powerful way of healing. Research out of Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness, and reduces the physical effects of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress.

Sometimes, a Hug Is All that we need. 

When Juan Mann made a sign that said “FREE HUGS” he never dreamed that it would become a movement. While living in London his world spun out of control, so he packed all his belongings in a carryon bag and headed back to Sydney, Australia. When he arrived he became disheartened that there was no one to welcome him and no place to call home.

While standing in the arrival terminal, Juan felt alone and sad as he watched other passengers meeting their friends and families with open arms, hugging and laughing. Then he got an idea and with a piece of cardboard and a marker he made a sign and a movement was born. He found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held the sign up with the words “FREE HUGS” on both sides.

At first, people just ignored Juan Mann, then someone tapped him on the shoulder and told him that her dog had died that morning and on top of it, this was the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. What she needed when she felt alone and sad was a hug.

The video shows Juan offering free hugs! Gets your oxytocin levels up just watching!

The Healing Power of a Hug

Just as you might prioritize exercise and nutrition, think about prioritizing quality time with your loved ones; just as you may avoid unhealthy habits like smoking, it’s important to your health to avoid isolation. And even if you don’t want to hug hundreds of strangers (although you might want to try it), don’t underestimate the healing power of touch. Below are some good reasons why a hug is so powerful.

  1. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heals feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.
  2. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
  3. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep us healthy and disease free.
  4. Hugging relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.
  5. Hugs balance out the nervous system. The subtle effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system.

A Proper Hug

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.” Eight or more might seem like a lot but try it! Ask your kids, your mom, you spouse or significant other how may hugs a day would you like and see what they say.

Note: A proper hug is 3 seconds, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi. There you go, try it.