Practice the hug

Olga Garrido

I love airport arrival areas. It is arriving at the destination, having had a safe journey, maybe starting a holiday, but it is also seeing faces that are expectant, smiling, full of excitement for the reunion with the loved one. And it is to see hugs, many hugs and at the same time feel a great desire to hug and … to receive a hug.

Why are hugs so good?

From the moment we are born, one of our basic needs, along with the nutritional ones, is that of contact, which comes from our parents, from “skin to skin”, from caresses, from feeling cradled and wrapped up in their arms.

Save a brain cell. Give a hug.

According to neuroscience, cuddling activates the secretion of oxytocin in our brain, which then, acting as a neurotransmitter, is released into our body. Oxytocin is known in relation to the time of birth, maternal and parent-child bonding as well as attachment.

Oxytocin is also called the “hugging hormone” for this reason and, apart from those already mentioned, it fulfils numerous functions: it intervenes in brain development, helps us to show affection, to be more empathetic, to encourage more compassionate and trusting behavior towards ourselves and others, encouraging healthier social relationships. In addition to oxytocin, when we give a hug, we release other hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that give us pleasure and a sense of well-being and harmony. Hugging, in short, makes us happier. And best of all, it is a shared happiness.

“Embracing is the most real form of giving and receiving”

– Carol CC Miller.

A hug is, as long as it is consensual, an exchange between two people, no matter who is the initiator or the receiver, in this case, as in mathematics, the commutative property is applied “the order of the factors does not alter the product”, the two parties will benefit from its power, it is the moment when the mirror neurons are put into operation. “Mirror neurons” were discovered relatively recently, in 1996, they are the nerve cells responsible for imitation, they cause, for example, the desire to yawn that we suddenly have when we see someone do it. These neurons are activated when we see a certain emotion being felt, which influences our ability to experience empathy and the development of our social skills. Embracing connects us with others, also internally.

Hugs are free

The international movement “Free hugs” was founded by the Australian citizen known under the pseudonym of John Mann. At a time when he was going through a rough patch in his life he went to a party, where a stranger gave him a hug and, as he would later describe: “I felt like a king, it was better than ever before”. Then he made a poster that read “free hugs” and went to the center of Sydney to give out hugs, later, social networks helped this event go viral, making it a worldwide phenomenon. It is incredible to think that all this began with just a hug, which acted as a chain reaction, as a contagion of optimism.

To practice without moderation

The hug reduces the levels of cortisol (the hormone responsible for stress) in our body which helps reduce anxiety, relaxes us, relieves headache, reduces insomnia, etc. Its impact, therefore, is highly beneficial to our mental health. It is not surprising that the medical community is paying more and more attention to this simple and healthy gesture and a hug is starting to be recommended for therapeutic purposes, even defining the minimum number of hugs we need to be happy. Some speak of eight, others of four. According to family psychotherapist Virginia Satir, “We need 4 hugs a day to survive, 8 hugs to stay and 12 hugs to grow”.

I invite you to preach and practice hugging, without moderation, for yourselves and for those around you, as an act of generosity and altruism, to spread happiness, to contribute to a happier society.

And, who do you like to embrace?

How many hugs have you given today?

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