Why do you hug?
What is the meaning or intent behind a hug?
Do you hug as a greeting? Is it a sign of affection or love? Are hugs an expression of friendship, or of consolation and comfort? Some people may hug just because it feels good. In some cases, it may be a habit, something you have always done. Something you were taught to do as a child. Sometimes hugs are an expression of appreciation or congratulations. You may turn an attempted kiss that you are wanting to avoid into a hug. It may be as a form of connection, a way to feel close. You may just feel starved for touch and feel this is the only way to get that physical connection.
Some people do not like hugs.
Not everyone is comfortable with hugging. They may not understand why you are hugging them, and the hug may convey a message that is different from the intent it in which it was given, and they do not understand. It may just be the way they were raised.
- There are health risks, or they could be germophobe, having an extreme fear of germs
- It could just be “my space” thing. They may feel threatened or vulnerable
- If there is no real meaning behind the hug, if it is merely a form of greeting or a habit, why do it?
- The hug may feel like an obligation, something you must do because it is expected of you
- People may be afraid of legal action, especially with the “Me-Too” movement
- Some people may see hugging as a form of harassment
- Hugs could lead to arousal or more unwanted intimacy
- They may lack self-esteem or self-confidence or suffer from social anxiety
- Some people may have body issues or just be touch avoidant
- A person may have been a victim of abuse and a hug brings back unwanted and unpleasant memories
- There may be cultural reasons to avoid hugging
The benefits of hugging:
Scientific studies and research have shown that regular hugs can have a positive effect on your life, on your brain, and on your body.
- When you hug, oxytocin, the “love or cuddle” hormone, gives your emotions a positive boost and makes you feel happy and can lighten your mood
- Hugs can comfort a person grieving or going through a tough or unpleasant experience in life. It shows them that they are supported
- Hugs can lower your blood pressure,
- Hugs can lower your cortisol, and norepinephrine, the “stress” chemicals and increases serotonin, the body’s natural antidepressant
- There is evidence that suggests that the stress-reducing effects of hugging might make you heathier and reduce illness. It reduces the risk to catch a cold.
- Hugs improve your quality of sleep
- Hugs may even help reduce pain
- Hugs are a form of communication and social support and can give you a sense of belonging, especially if you have been feeling isolated or lonely
What makes a good hug?
When you give or receive hugs that are done the right way, with the right intent, you will experience the many benefits. Done the wrong way you could be left feeling awkward and uncomfortable and it may even lead to a slap in the face. There are several types of hugs depending on the situation and relationship so there is not really one good rule on how to hug. The type of hug will also depend on who you are hugging and the relationship you have with that person, and the reason you are hugging that person. Do not confuse a hug with a passionate embrace. Here are some basic rules for hugging etiquette:
- Know your intention for the hug
- Make eye contact
- Open your arms and wait for a cue
- Note the body language before going in for the hug. See if you can gauge their level of acceptance or avoidance. React accordingly and don’t force it
- Respect the other person’s space
- Get permission before you hug someone. This is not always required depending on your relationship. Ask them if necessary
- The hug should last for at least 20 seconds to get all the benefits. The time, however, will depend on the intention. The hug could last from 3-20 seconds
- You should not pat the person, they are not a pet, you should just hold them
- Do not smother them
- Do not squeeze them too tightly
- Do not press your body into theirs or touch any private parts
- Do not breathe heavily into their ear
How many hugs do we need?
Science and literature suggest that we hug eight hugs a day (four for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth. Eight hugs at 20 seconds each is 2.7 minutes of hugging each day. Totally doable.
To feel better about yourself, to improve your health and well-being, and to support those around you…HUG.
And maybe you hug because you just do not have the right words so convey your feelings.