Are you getting enough hugs?
Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
How many hugs are you getting each day?
With social distancing, dramatically reduced human contact, and more digital than physical interactions, many of us are running short on hugs. These extra measures to keep ourselves healthy is causing mental and emotional health problems, lost productivity at work, reduced intimacy and trust, increased anger and aggression, and that’s just a start. As leaders, it’s essential that we take this seriously—the more emotionally and mentally balanced we are, the more we can help our teams to become so.
So, let’s look at why humans need hugs, and then we’ll look at strategies to get more.
4 Reasons Why Humans Need Hugs
1. Hugs strengthen your immune system and balance your body. A hug results in some pressure on your sternum, which then stimulates the thymus gland, which then regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy. Hugs help increase circulation and help balance our sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. All good.
2. Hugs increase your feelings of safety. Hugs emotionally “feed” us, help us remember that we’re not alone, help us feel more trust with others. Ever notice how relaxed you feel after a juicy hug? Hugs remind us that we’re with others. And together we can face any challenge.
3. Hugs increase your feelings of belonging. Hugs boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Hugging is a shared experience: you’re both giving and receiving affection. Nice!
4. Hugs increase your feelings of mattering/self-esteem, being seen, and self-love. Extended hugging (20 seconds or more) boosts your serotonin levels, causing you to feel happy and more positive emotions overall. When you see another person look at you with kindness and affection you remember that you’re loved, just like you did as a child when your parents looked at you and acknowledged you were here and they were happy you were.
How to Get More Hugs
Ask Others, Get a Hug Buddy. If you live with others, this is easy. Start keeping a daily tally and find out what number of hugs makes you feel most at peace. If you live alone, get a Hug Buddy. This is a buddy that observes the same social-distancing and pandemic protocols that you do. It’s essential to be able to relax into a delicious hug. Set times when you’ll get together for hugs. You can also sit back to back on the ground and lean against one another for an extended period of time. You could be reading or talking during this time.
Hug and/or Sleep with Your Pet. Yes, this is not the same as hugging a human, but still, it’s contact with another living thing, so go for it! Many people I know are “breaking the rules” and letting their dog sleep on the bed now. Throw a special dog blanket on top to protect your bedding and snuggle up!
Hug Yourself. This may sound silly but it works. Remember the goal is oxytocin and serotonin release, so you may want to turbo-charge this experience by listing all the things you love about yourself. This is about mental and emotional health, friends, and yours is more important than ever with the extended pandemic and continued uncertainty.
Hugs are good for our mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual health
Now, more than ever, people need more hugs
We can get creative to get more hugs, and also get proactive by getting hug buddies and tracking how many hugs we need daily to feel good
How will you get more hugs per day?