The Hug Phenomenon

The hug. So innocent, yet such a hotly debatable topic.
So many touchpoints (pun intended) in a hug. For example, there are the types of hugs, the length of a hug, the reaction to a hug – both before and after, and the digital hug. Plus, the psychology behind it. WOW, as my Peruvian friend would say.

Do you like to give, or receive the hug? Some people are ok with receiving a hug, but can be uncomfortable initiating.

Do you like a firm hug or a soft hug?  Are you the pat-on-the-back person in a hug relationship, or do you like a light, arm around the back moment – similar to the soft handshake, yet another personal preference. Someone once scored our hugs on the hug-o-meter, and it was a hotly contested space for a few days, where each of us tried to out-hug the other with the firmest hold we could give.

What about people’s reaction to the hug? That moment when you initiate and there is a slight withdrawal? Our advice – keep going. You can turn it into a sideways semi-hug to keep the momentum but downplay the physical interaction. The flipside is the eternal hug – the one where they just won’t let go. You have resorted to slowly patting the back at regular intervals (and they get firmer with each one) – but they just won’t let you go!! There is only one thing you can do at this point. Go with it. Lean into it, and surrender to the moment. It is what it is.

Digital hugs are now a thing! Can’t be there in person? Send a digital hug. But be careful not to let this replace the real thing – touch is so important on many levels.

We haven’t even talked about the other person in the relationship yet – the receiver! It takes 2 baby! Push past how you feel about the hug, and think about the other person. How are they feeling? What is happening for them? What impact are you making through this physical and emotional transaction? You’ve heard the saying – I just need a hug. Instinctively, we know when touch is really needed for soothing, and how much better you feel once you’ve received a hug.

Group hugs! No explanation needed – just dive into the awkwardness!

How about the emotional rainbow of the hug phenomenon?! I’m just going to throw a few things out there that I think are represented in a hug – joy, happiness, friendship, love, sadness, empathy, wisdom, strength, congratulations, fun, laughter, sharing, quiet. That’s just a few, but shows the gamut of emotions involved from this one moment in time. Ultimately, it shows people that you care.

Did you know that there is a health benefit for embracing the hug? Hugging increases levels of the "love hormone" oxytocin. A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand-holding, also reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate. Heal yourself with a hug!

How about touch? We all know it’s important - from a warm handshake or sympathetic hug to a congratulatory pat on the back, we have developed complex languages, cultures, and emotional expression through physical contact. But in a tech busy world, non-sexual human touch is in danger of becoming rare, if not obsolete. Even with the benefits that come along with a digital lifestyle, we need to keep on having physical interactions.

So – our take on hugs? Just go for it. You’ll be healthier and happier. And even if it’s uncomfortable for you, think about the moment of strength and peace you are giving away. What an amazing thing to do – so generous.

Go forth and hug! #happyhugday #comeandgetit


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