Bring Them Back - The Amazing Benefits of Hugging!
I loved growing-up in a big Italian family (as you can probably tell from my name!). There was shouting, there was laughing, there was bruising, there was a lot of pasta and even the occasional polenta! I had the benefits of going through childhood with lots of hugs and kisses from family members and even from "relatives" I didn't know! Such "relatives" were often honorary members of the family who were cousins of cousins, or friends of cousins who once gave us a festive panettone and we might see once every five or ten years at a wedding! Yet, yet we would still kiss on the cheeks! Hugging had its place, too and there was hugging for all kinds of different situations, from all kinds of different people.
"To me, hugs are like medicine for the soul!"
Japan is currently my home. I love Japan, though there is one thing I miss that's part of my DNA and you probably guessed it: it's been able to greet people and give them a hug. Now I will say this: Japanese people, like anybody else love to hug - they just don't show it openly and so easily like other cultures do. This makes hugging all the more special in Japan! To me, hugs are like medicine for the soul, and I am lucky to get a daily dosage from my own kids. My daughter even reminds to make sure it lasts longer than 20 seconds...(I'll come back to this soon!).
There is a very real chance that Loneliness will develop into a global epidemic
Recently, the UK appointed its first ever "Loneliness Minister" to help deal with the health repercussions as a result of modern-day life. This is not a problem just in the U.K. In Japan, there are thousands every week who are discovered even after years of passing-on in their apartments, alone. A sad reality, this article, even states, "the way we die is a mirror of the way we live". If you haven't noticed that people are becoming more and more detached from each other, then it could be because you're too busy looking down than looking up. You could be a perfect candidate to play into loneliness's hands.
Whilst we could let our monkey mind jump around and focus on all the probably causes, I prefer to focus on what we can right now.
Humans need "touch" for reasons more than we think!
Instead of denying and deserting our human specialties and NEED for touch, or believing that social media will substitute this unique human need with real human connection (it's helpful but it's too weak to have a real impact), we can turn things around with a simple act of, “THE HUG".
If I'm ever lucky enough to have you in my training program, expect me to talk about hug therapy! There are too many reasons not to. Research has shown that hugging, much like laughter, is very effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it's contagious!
It doesn't require learning a process!
Here's the best part: it doesn't matter what culture you choose to belong to, what country you live in, everyone can enjoy the effects of hugging. Even better, there is no single way to do it - I've never known two people who hug the same way! I've never seen a person pick-up a manual (well not yet) and read it right before a hug; You don't need a trainer; and you certainly don't need to watch a video.
No More Excuses - Top 6 Reasons to Hug
1. HUGGING BOOSTS OXYTOCIN LEVELS
These help you create stronger bonds/trust with the people around you. In one of my previous companies, it was quite common to go in to work and hug someone. That connection is incredible - you know you can be open with this person - that you can trust this person. You know they'll be there if you need them. Imagine having a workplace where people have your back?
2. HUG FOR AT LEAST 20 SECONDS TO RECEIVE A BOOST IN SEROTONIN LEVELS
Hugging for at least 20 seconds will raise your serotonin levels. Serotonin helps reduce anxiety and depression and is a sure way to increase the feeling of happiness. It is also responsible for controlling appetite, cardiovascular function, regulating sleep, regulating temperature, memory, and muscle contraction.
3. HUGGING IS GREAT FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Hugs can strengthen your immune system. When we make physical contact, the pressure on our bodies stimulates the thymus gland which is critical to regulating white blood cells (WBCs). WBCs are critical to our bodies and are responsible for protecting our bodies against infectious disease.
4. HUGGING IS A REMINDER OF HUMAN CONNECTION
As I said early, I've not met two people who hug the same way. We can be both the receiver and giver of the hug at the same time. This is a great reminder that love flows both ways. It is a wonderful way to nurture empathy and understanding in relationships. We were not meant to live on this planet alone. Sharing a hug is a wonderful reminder that we can support each other, we can be there for each other. It's an amazing union of the universe between two people, in the here and the now.
5. HUGGING RELEASES ENDORPHINS
Endorphins are often linked to with exercise. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that interact with your brain and reduces the perception of pain. Endorphins bind to neuron receptors the same way that some pain-reducing medicines bind. The difference is, when you activate these receptors naturally (via the release of endorphins), it doesn't lead to addiction or dependence. Hugging releases endorphins - so now you can try a hug before heading off to the medicine cabinet!
6. IMPROVES HEART HEALTH
Hugging can decrease the heart rate which is terrific for people with high blood pressure and who are prone to anxiety. I often teach a presentation skills class and depending on the situation, I recommend if people are so anxious before a big speech, have a "hugging partner" on standby! On another note, I wonder if that's also a reason my 85-year-old father is doing so well!
No More Excuses - Top Reason to Hug at Work
I am often called-in to companies as a workplace culture consultant. Often it's from companies who know that employee culture is the "ballgame" - it's everything. In Japan, with talent shortages posing a huge challenge, competition for great employees is tough. Smart companies know if they want to attract the best employees, if they want to keep their best talent, then culture is everything. To have a great culture, its leaders need to demonstrate effective communication, vision, relationship/bonding and be willing to be more receptive. Leadership behavior trickles throughout the organization. Hugging at work can inject a huge show of trust in each other. It builds a culture that they feel safe; that there is better team communications; there is a better sense of people's "self"; and they are more likely to stay at the company, longer; and happier employees are less likely to be off on sick leave.
IT ALL HAPPENS WITHOUT US EVEN REALIZING IT!
All the benefits mentioned above happens so wondrously - we don't even have to intentionally think about it. I mean how many people would need to think: okay, I'm going to hug this person...first, I am going to take a breath, then maybe put one arm on top of theirs, and another one here, and.... it doesn't happen that way! Go with the flow. If you feel the need to hug, then ask someone (or come to one of my talks!). There's no such thing that labels you weak or vulnerable or how you will look in front of others unless you label yourself.
Hugging is free and available as long as you have an open heart and to do that, you only need to open your arms.
Thank you for reading! Do you have a favorite way to hug?
HUG CHALLENGE - 12 HUGS A DAY FOR GROWTH!
Here's the challenge!
4 hugs a day for survival!
8 hugs for maintenance
12 for growth
Let me know how you go!! I'd love to hear your comments :)