I was standing on the balcony of my boyfriend’s apartment, my mind totally shrouded with dark thoughts, oblivious to the twinkling city lights before me. I was distressed. That afternoon, the executives had announced a huge scope and location change for the project I was contracted to complete. How could they? That’s not what I had signed up for!
Slowly I felt my friend take me into his arms and hold me. He whispered that I’d get through it; he’d help me; he’d take care of me. I felt the compassion of his embrace gently creep into my heart, giving me the necessary strength to face the issues head on. Today this friend is my husband. He knew and still knows the power of a hug.
I have often seen the quote from Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, saying “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” I believe it’s not just children who need these – we all do.
But what if we don’t have someone close to give us all those hugs? Did you know that in 2014, 50.2 percent of the American adults were single, compared to 22 percent in 1950? I suspect this trend is not limited to America alone.
And with the proliferation of smartphones and texting, I wonder if we’re moving into an era of disconnect where people are switching to cyber communication and shying away from human contact? Goodness, I’ve even noticed that the way people hug has changed. It’s become an awkward dance where they lean their shoulders forward and hollow their torsos backward, move sideways, barely make physical contact and gently pat the other person on the back.
Seriously, are we becoming a hug deprived culture?
Ten years ago, the Japanese firm AIST recognized our human need for hugs and lack thereof, particularly in care facilities housing the elderly. They introduced a cuddly, stuffed, plush, anti-bacterial furry harp seal named Paro to the world. Its purpose was to give hugs and encourage the owner to pet and hug it back.
Today, Paro continues to be sought out by care facilities all around the world. And it is slowly migrating into homes of the elderly as a pet.
Arguably there are plenty of good reasons why we need to watch what we do with our arms and hands; litigation being the most notable of them. I contend, however, that there are just as many important reasons to share compassionate hugs with family, friends and acquaintances.
Let’s assume that an average good hug lasts for about 3 to 4 seconds. So for less than a minute a day we have an enjoyable way that we can improve our health by boosting our immune systems and lowering our blood pressure.
Hugs create trust and teach us how to give and receive, building harmony in relationships. They help us let go and be in the present moment. They relieve stress, anxiety and fears. They make us feel safe and give us hope. Hugs feel good – hugs make us happy.
And the supply of hugs within us is endless. The more hugs we give, the more hugs we find that we have to give.
Isn’t it time we brought hugs back into our lives?