Hugs can stop hate and division, but how?
There’s a group I belong to that has very loving people in it. Each time we meet everyone extends a warm hug as a welcome.
It’s the kind of hug that holds on and literally opens your heart with a warm tingly feeling. It brings connection, acceptance, peace, and love together with the power to heal.
So when someone close to me once asked, “What’s the big deal about hugs?”
I was surprised, and wasn’t given enough time to process a thoughtful answer before the subject was changed.
So, it has sat with me ever since. There are so many “big deals” about hugs and I was inspired to connect them with this story I recently listened to.
It was from a trucker who experienced the brutal behavior of the officers who were summoned to carry out the disruption of the Freedom Convoy protest in Canada.
This man had immigrated from Romania and he experienced the communist government under Ceaușescu. Ultimately, he came to Canada for a freer life.
He never expected he’d experience his livelihood being taken away from him by the government mandates and saw too many familiar things happening in his newfound country. So the calling came to participate in the convoy.
As I listened to this wonderful burly man with tears in his eyes talking about the outpouring of love that came towards him from so many Canadians on his way to the capital and the heartfelt hugs and love he experienced in Ottawa, it brought so much joy to my heart.
What he did at the end, as he was confronted with brutality, was very telling.
Why Is a Hug So Important?
Humans thrive on physical connection, and hugging is one of the most powerful ways to physically show support. There is no better way to express affection and care than with holding and hugging.
Turns out that hugs don’t just make us feel good, they also have real, physiological benefits to our health.
Here are just some of the many health benefits you gain from hugging:
Reduces Stress Levels & Raises Immunity
Studies show that hugs reduce levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. High levels of stress hormones can cause a whole host of health issues like sleep problems, skin problems, obesity, low immunity, and more.
One study found that people who were hugged and felt socially supported experienced less severe signs of sickness.
Improved Heart Health
Frequent hugging can help to lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Boosts Self Esteem
Touch is a powerful language that we instinctively use to convey feelings of safety, love, and connection to a greater community. When you’re feeling down or lost, a hug can help ground you and remind you that you belong.
Hugs can benefit all types of relationships because they’re another form of communication to convey messages and feelings that words just can’t. It’s a deeper, more intimate level of connection than talking.
The second reason is that physical touch causes the release of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which improves bonding and trust and makes people feel closer to one another.
When we hug, our bodies release “feel good” hormones called endorphins, and our circulation improves. These two things are natural pain-relievers that can benefit people who suffer from chronic pain conditions.
Why Is a Hug So Powerful?
The hug is celebratory, reassuring, comforting, loving and calming. Believe it or not, there have been many legitimate studies conducted about the hug’s unparalleled powers:
Hugs Ward Off Illness
A study found that frequent hugs actually protected people from increased susceptibility to the kind of stress that leads to infection. Participants who were sick exhibited fewer symptoms when they were hugged more often.
Hugs Release Oxytocin
Oxytocin or the “love hormone,” is released when we cuddle or bond. It’s the reason why being hugged feels so good. So when you’re feeling down, give someone a hug and feel your mood lift.
Everything Will Be Okay
We instinctively hug those we see struggling. Receiving a hug from someone you care about or who makes you happy, can leave both of you feeling safe, and excited for the future.
Physiological Consequences of Stress
With hugs being able to lower cortisol levels they also counteract the physiological consequences around being stressed.
To finish off what happened with the trucker, when he saw that officials were becoming very rough with the peaceful protesters, he got out of his truck. He had his phone set on live feed inside, and offered himself up for arrest with his hands behind his head.
What happened next was shocking to everyone watching. He was thrown to the ground and three officers repeatedly kicked and punched him. When he was able to lift his face out of the snow, he saw an older woman crying with her hands behind her back.
He looked at her and said, “Don’t cry sister, everything is going to be all right.”
One officer asked, “Is that your sister?”
The trucker replied, “Yes, just like you are my brother.”
A hug has the power of transmitting a message of unconditional love, connection, hope and freedom. His message to people is to “go out and hug people and tell them you love them.”
With tears in his eyes, he said, “Love has incredible power. I used to think a punch had power, but no - love has much more than that. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, I love you all. If any of those officers have a chance to watch this (the video interview), I forgive you buddy, and I love you.”
Respectfully ask first, “Are you a hugger?” prior to assuming that the other person will welcome a hug. If not, shake hands while blasting love from your heart.
I invite you to mindfully ask yourself if you get or give hugs every day. How long do your hugs last? Do you suffer from the “air hug” that is so fast and barely touches you, or the “burp the baby” hug that is accompanied by a couple of taps on the back?
It’s you who’s required to change in order to create the change you want outside of you and the way to change is through the heart.
Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed these thoughts, please leave a comment and share with someone you care about.
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