You’re at a funeral. You’ve just witnessed a loved soul being given to the earth. You’re standing in line ready to pay your respects to the closest family members that have had to do the unthinkable but also the inevitable.
It’s now your turn. You look into the eyes of the hurt one that is still alive to deal with the grief. You have no words. You cannot speak. Tears are steadily running down both cheeks of the human that’s left behind. Your next move is the one that speaks the loudest.
You hold the delicate, vulnerable grieving one with the most affectionate embrace, we call it a hug.
Fast forward a year from that moment and you find yourself in front of that same person because you bumped into each other randomly at a supermarket.
Time temporarily stands still. The noise of the supermarket becomes white noise. Unlike at the time of the funeral, you do speak now, and you both get into a little conversation. The small talk quickly dissolves because the person you hugged a year ago must let you know that the hug you gave them helped them get through that day. You talk for a couple of minutes more and you have to part ways, not before arranging another time to meet up and commit to not losing contact with each other.
During the same year, you meet up another five times. You both find that you cannot go long without having to meet. Both of your lives become better at dealing with life’s obstacles.
You now have a picture of who the other person was. I wanted to describe a fictitious character that allowed your imagination to create a real scenario with a real person that you know. If that hasn’t happened, maybe you’ve thought of a time you hugged someone, or someone hugged you when no words were made available. Do you remember the feeling?
Hugs are emotional charges. When your body is pressed upon someone else’s there are a lot of hormonal releases with one major one being Oxytocin (here’s a cool study). Oxytocin is associated with happiness and less stress. It is not only known as the ‘happy hormone” but also the “cuddle hormone”.
Some interesting data has been found that oxytocin lowers blood pressure (the link above), but the power of the hug goes much further than releasing specific hormones. It’s a spiritual connector that once felt can make you, your body, and your mind quite special.
Hugging relaxes muscles, releases tension in the body and they can take the pain away by soothing aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.
When we hug, sensations are created in the body by stimulating nerve endings which balance out the nervous system.
If we now return to the funeral story, I hope it highlights that the energy exchange between people when hugging is an investment in a relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding, and it is synergistic, which is more likely to result in positive outcomes for both huggers.
I often sign off with a Tim Ferriss quote, which has become a mental model of sorts for me — “Be a little kinder than you think necessary” but I would like to sign off with…
Hug a little more than you think necessary.