Does a Hug Really Matter?

Heart shaped mother and a child mascots

 Sometimes it’s better to put love into hugs than to put it into words. 

~Anonymous

I went to a memorial service for a friend a few weeks ago. It was extremely heartbreaking to watch everyone struggle with the loss of a very vibrant, smart and beautiful woman. There were many people in my community at the memorial and it was nice to see all of the support that everyone is giving to the family.  I had been ill and I tried to stay away from most people at the memorial because I didn’t want to get anyone else sick. But there was so much heartache it seemed that everyone needed to be touched, to be held or to be hugged. Although I had my reasons for not hugging or touching anyone that day, without the touch of others I felt distant and disconnected from everyone. It got me thinking about how sometimes we forget to touch the people we love.

When my children were younger I used to hug them all the time. I still hug my ten-year-old a lot but my older daughter and I can go days without hugging. I tell her every day that I love her but I’m not sure it’s the same. We fail to share a part of ourselves when we don’t hold each other’s hands, give hugs or just put a hand on someone’s shoulder. There is a warmth to an embrace.  It is an unspoken gesture that goes deeper than any word I can find. Some parents of teenagers have told me that they feel uncomfortable displaying affection with their children because teens tend to be more distant emotionally. Yet, these are the times when the unspoken word of touch becomes even more meaningful. Even just touching their arm or giving them a kiss on the cheek lets them feel loved and helps them remember the warmth of your relationship. It transcends all of the disagreements and confusion as they strive for more independence. They might want more freedom, but they always need to know that they are loved.

I also realize that when I greet someone and I don’t shake their hand, say their name or give them a hug, our interaction is not as intimate and sensitive. I try my best to be warm with words, but touching someone’s hand or embracing them is so kind and inviting. When I see a homeless person on the street I wonder when was the last time anyone hugged them.  I think there is a physical energy that we all hold but forget to share because our thoughts are filled with where we need to go next and what we need to do. Other times, anger or upset or fear towards a person allows us to forget the depth of our humanity because we are only seeing them from our minds and not our hearts.

A nice warm embrace is also important with our spouses or partners. Life can get very busy with work and family, but a simple hug takes the relationship out of the mind and brings it back to the softness of the moment. It is a sweet reminder of the love you share together.

I think it would be really great to remember to pause when we approach someone that we know and greet them mindfully with our love and our touch. And if we don’t know the person, sometimes a nice handshake with a warm smile can make someone feel at ease at a first meeting. As you become more mindful of loving touch, you also may find you feel a little closer to the ones around you and more engaged with the strangers that you meet.

There is even scientific evidence that hugging someone is good for our health. Last month, a research study at the Medical University of Vienna claimed that hugging someone can have a positive effect on our long-term health including easing stress, anxiety, lower blood pressure and boosting memory!

So Maybe someone near you could use a hug!