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Sometimes, a Hug is all you need...

September 30th,2013

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Continuing with the theme of body language, relationships, and connections, today I would like to explore another body language favorite of mine: HUGS. The truth is, the power of hugs is way underrated!


I come from a latin country, where we hug a lot, and I have to say that HUGS is one of the things I miss the most from my country, we hug our friends, our neighbors, our parents, our grandparents, our cousins, you name it, and we do it all the time!

I recently read a blog post from the Mars and Venus website (the official website for the famous book: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by Dr. John Gray). It is a short article written by a witty blogger, on: "How to keep intimacy alive in the day-to-day grind"

Basically the article talks about how hard it is to find the time to nourish our relationship on a daily bases, especially for busy, working couples with or without kids; apparently, the secret short cut to nurturing and connecting is as simple as a hug!! According to the article: Studies have shown that hugging for 20 seconds raises levels of oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. A hug re-establishes the intimate connection and trust between you and your partner on a fundamental hormonal level. If you wish to read the full article, click HERE.

Another story I love to share is that of "The Rescuing Hug" which had a positive impact in the way medicine and hospitals treat premature infants, the original article appeared on Reader’s Digest and Life magazine in 1996. If you have not heard about this story, there is a quick description of it HERE.

Also, I remember a few years back I took a course on personal growth and one of the things that stayed with me was an exercise that we did towards the end of the 2-day course, the presenter had us split in pairs and showed us how to give each other an "energy hug" we had to hug our partner hard, really holding them in our arms, and then we had to take 3 deep breaths together, silently. The idea was that we could use our bodies and breathing to raise our energy and establish a deeper connection to one another.

I really liked this exercise, and all the participants agreed that they felt very relaxed, very connected and happy after doing it, this was back in my country, however, so we didn't have much of a cultural barrier against close physical proximity. Hugging is a natural part of our human essence, beyond cultural and social conditionings; it is the first thing we do with our human babies, we hold them, we hug them, we press them against our bodies and that physical contact is a very important factor on their survival. If you wish to read more about this, I recommend the article: The Experience of Touch: Research Points to a Critical Role by Daniel Goleman, 1988.

After moving to the US I slowly but surely stopped hugging people, to respect the cultural norm here and to avoid sending mixed messages, but this had a toll on my emotional well being, so finally, after many years, I have decided to allow myself to be who I am, and hope for the best. I still don't do it as freely as I would in my country but I do it as much as I can and often find myself apologizing when people are surprised or taken aback by it, I just tell them I am from a different culture. I really believe Americans would greatly benefit from more free hugs!

I have shared many conversations about this with American friends who have traveled or lived in countries were there are less "physical boundaries" and they all agree that one of the things they liked and miss most about those cultures was their "warmth" and the hugs, kisses and other ways to freely connect to other people through our bodies.

I find that here many people are quick to associate this easy-body connection with the danger of inappropriate touching, so they try to protect themselves from it, and teach their kids to avoid touch because of this. I feel however that there can be a happy medium that is much healthier and that would allow people to feel a lot more connected and supported.

Growing up I had a very clear idea of what was appropriate and what was not, and I fully enjoyed the freedom of connecting with friends, cousins, relatives, etc. using my body in a healthy way. So here, I just wanted to start a conversation on how cultural and social codes may sometimes prevent us from getting closer and more connected to people around us. That said, I know a lot of Americans that are big huggers, thank God!

Sometimes a hug is all you need...

Have a good week!

Related Articles:

The Importance of Physical Touch



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