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The Magic of Hugs


The Magic of Hugs

by Marlaina Donato

Through the ages, various substances and lifestyle changes have been touted as panaceas, but even in our modern world there is one unexpected soul-elixir that might rival the others—the human hug. Virginia Satir, a pioneer in family therapy, is famous for saying, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Even hugging a pet or stuffed animal can lower blood pressure, take the edge off pain and curb the effects of certain pro-inflammatory cytokines. 

During a hug, preferably the 20-second variety, we can experience a drop in anxiety, thanks to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol and a friendly burst of the bonding hormone oxytocin. Hugging our spouse, a friend or someone after church can ward off the common cold while helping us feel less alone in a big world.

Hugging is a language unto itself, showing others that they matter. Too often, we postpone physical contact, rushing out the door on the way to work. Couples sometimes reserve embraces only as a prelude to intimacy. Children can be deprived of hugs because of generational and cultural reservation. In the end, most of us don’t have enough healthy, non-sexual touch, which can contribute to loneliness, depression and feelings of separateness. Whether we are born huggers or hug-phobic and warming up to the practice, lifting our arms to express affection or support another person can prove that there are safe places indeed.

Here are a few suggestions to add hugs to the day.

  • Compose “hug certificates” and put them in someone’s birthday card to use throughout the year.
  • Hug a pillow when alone and surrender to the safe-place feeling.
  • Give a child a hug before and after school, after a job well done or just because.
  • Schedule two hugs a day with a partner and make sure they each are at least 20 seconds in duration.
  • To respect possible past trauma around touch, ask someone if it’s okay to give them a hug.

Marlaina Donato is a visionary artist, composer and author of several books. Connect at BluefireStudio.art. 

Photo Credit: Prasong TakhamVecteezy

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