My Week in Hugs
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about hugging.
Hugs are a strange thing if you really think about it. But don’t. They only really work if you don’t think. You just throw a hug on someone. Open up your arms and pull them in. You just get in someone’s personal space, wrap them in our arms and press our bodies together.
Hugs would be more understandable it we only did it with our spouses and kids, but we do it with friends, family and even people we barely know. (At least I do) It feels really good, doesn’t it?
I remember Daddy’s funeral. I was last in the receiving line and was hugging everyone. My family told me all my hugging was holding up the line. I said very little that night. I just hugged and cried. I hugged construction workers that I didn’t know, I hugged the diner waitress, I hugged our dentist, I even hugged people that I don’t really like and it was all good. When one of Jolene’s coworkers that I especially love came up, a new wave of sobbing poured out of me when she held me. She said just let it out and I did. And it helped. All those people, all that hugging . It helped more that all the kind words. In that monument, the only thing in the world that helped was that long line of hugs.
I googled it and it seems North Americans do a lot of the hugging in this world. More conservative societies like China, Japan, Iran, India, etc don’t seem to hug so much, especially between men and women. Primates hug. Maybe it’s something in our DNA. We know for sure that pressure on the body during a hug stimulates the vagus nerve. That nerve stimulates oxytocin production and therefore dopamine production. These hormones and neurotransmitters makes us feel safe, trusting, and loved. Our blood pressure and heart rates drop. Anxiety and stress levels drop. Mood improves. Pain tolerance increases. Inflammation decreases. Our immune systems seems to get a tune up and can even fight colds and cancer cells more effectively. It even helps wounds heal faster. This is some really good stuff. I wish we could buy it in a six pack. But no worries, it’s free.
I wonder if that’s how those Thunder Shirts for dogs that are afraid of fireworks and thunder work? They wrap the dog in a tight shirt, like swaddling a baby and the dog calms down. Hey, I wonder if that’s why babies relax when wrapped like that too? I’ll have to goggle that later.
Anyway, back to me and hugs. I had a crappy day this week and was talking to a friend about it. I was all worked up about things that I had little control over. The conversation started with a good long hug. I felt better. Calmer. Safer. We talked. I complained and I grumbled for an hour. Then another long hug. I felt better. I felt heard, more confident and calm. Was it the talking? The hugs? Both?
Today I was reading FaceBook and an article popped up about this Indian lady who travels the world hugging people. (It was an NPR article if you want to find it).People wait hours in line for one of her hugs. I don’t know what they each get out of it but people sure seem to like it. The article talked about the endorphin release during a hug. It suggested a minimum of 20 seconds of hugging is needed to get that hormone release. It even said that some people have more endorphins receptors so they need a longer hug to get the release. (I am an extra long hugger)
I also read an article this week about a new rheumatoid Arthritis treatment being finalized. They are using an implanted nerve stimulator to coax the Vagus nerve into sending signals to stop making all that inflammation. This procedure has helped patients with RA so much, it should be available in Europe in the next couple years.
And have you seen all the stuff this week where people are going around with FREE HUGS signs? Black people are hugging cops. Cops hugging strangers, People are just hugging all over the place. Could more hugging be the thing we all really need right now?
I am already a big hugger but maybe I need to up my hugs even more. I am also a big “arm toucher” and “hand toucher” . When I see a person looking lost at my hospital, I stop to help and I usually pat their arm. I can’t help it. When a doctor or nurse come to the pharmacy door looking short tempered and ready to blow, I try my best to help and usually sneak in an arm pat. It always seems to disarm the situation.
Let’s all try to get a few more hugs in this week.
Make single people and widows your targets. It may have been a while since they had a really good hug. If you have a disagreement with someone, end the situation by “hugging it out”. Hug your people Hello and Goodbye. You may have to throw out a warning before going in for that hug. Open your arms and give a quick “Can I give you a hug?” As you go in.
Find you target.
Go in for the hug.
Hold it for at least 20 seconds.
Throw in a whispered “thanks” or “Luv ya” during that 20 seconds. (No science here, I just like to do that)
Stay in the moment.
Really feel the hug.
Give a big exhale.
Hold on tight.
It will make your day better.