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I love the arrivals areas of the airports. It is to arrive at the destination, to have had a safe journey, but it is also to see expectant faces, smiling, full of enthusiasm for the reunion with the loved one. And it is to see hugs, many hugs and at the same time feel a lot like hugging and… to receive a hug.

Why are hugs so good?

Since we are born one of our basic needs along with the nutritious one is that of contact, which comes through the parents, the “skin with skin”, the caresses, of feeling cradled and tucked in their arms.

Save a neuron. Give a hug.

According to neuroscience, hugging activates the secretion of oxytocin in our brain, which then, acting as a neurotransmitter, is released into our body. Oxytocin is known in relation to the time of delivery, maternal and parento-filial bond as well as attachment.

Oxytocin is also called “hug hormone” for this reason and, apart from those already mentioned, performs numerous functions: it intervenes in brain development, helps us to show affection, to be more empathetic, to enhance more compassionate and trustworthy behaviors towards ourselves and others, incentivating healthier social relationships. In addition to oxytocin, when we embrace, we release other hormones like Dopamine and Serotonin that provide us with pleasure and a sense of well-being and harmony. Hugging ultimately makes us happier. Best of all, it’s a shared happiness.

Hugging is the most real way to give and receive
Carol CC Miller.

The embrace is, whenever it is consensual, an exchange between two people, no matter who the initiator or the receiver is, in this case, as in mathematics, the commutative property is applied “the order of the factors does not alter the product”, the two parties will benefit from its power, it is the moment when mirror neurons are put into operation. Mirror neurons were discovered relatively recently, in 1996, these are the nerve cells responsible for imitation, and, for example, the desire to yawn that, suddenly we have when we see someone do it. These neurons activate when we see a certain emotion feel, which influences our ability to experience empathy and the development of our social skills. Hugging connects us with others, also internally.

Hugs are free

The international movement “Free hugs” was founded by the Australian citizen known under the pseudonym Juan Mann (one man” word game “one man” in his Translation into Spanish). At a time when I was having a bad run in his life he went to a party, where a stranger gave him a hug and, as he would later describe, “I felt like a king, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.” He then made a sign that read “free hugs” and went to central Sydney to hand out hugs, then social media helped viralize this fact by making it a global phenomenon. It’s unbelievable to think that all this started with just a hug, which acted as a chain reaction, as a contagion of optimism.

Practice without moderation

The hug reduces the levels of cortisol (the hormone responsible for stress), from our body which helps us reduce anxiety, relaxes us, relieves headache, decreases insomnia, etc. Its impact, therefore, is highly beneficial to our mental health. Unsurprisingly, the medical community is increasingly paying attention to this simple and healthy gesture and is recommended for therapeutic purposes, even defining the minimum number of hugs we need to be happy. Some talk about eight, some talk about four. According to family psychotherapist Virginia Satir said: “We need 4 hugs a day to survive, 8 hugs to support us and 12 hugs to grow.”

I invite you to preach and practice the embrace, without moderation, for yourself and for those around you, as an act of generosity and altruism, to spread happiness, to contribute to a happier society.

And who do you like to hug?

How many hugs did you give today?

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Author: Olga Garrido Orozco

Author: Olga Garrido Orozco

Founder of Psisulab. Psychologist, mom and recurrent optimist.

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