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What's In a Hug?

So how many hugs do you get a day? According to Virginia Satir, “Mother of Family Therapy”

We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.

Given the message to unplug and hug, twelve hugs a day will provide lots of opportunities for expansion. Beyond growth, however, hugging can be a potent healer of the soul. Hugs can be exchanged anywhere, no outlet required. No tech device can claim that super power!

So, what’s in a hug?

Hugging actually stimulates certain brain chemicals. Oxytocin is what makes us social beings and allows us to feel empathy for others. The boost in oxytocin resulting from a hug can ease feelings of loneliness and isolation, and even reduce feelings of anger. Have you ever tried to stay mad at someone when you are hugging? I find it virtually impossible. Serotonin, one of the “feel good” hormones, is also released when embracing for an extended period, elevating our mood and creating a feeling of deep contentment and happiness.

Hugging also has a positive impact on our nervous system, by stimulating the parasympathetic response of rest and healing, to create more balance. Through skin-to-skin contact or connection through our solar plexus chakra (at the level of our diaphragm) it can boost immune function and release muscle tension in the body.

Before I continue, I’d like you to think back on the last time you experienced a hug. Take time to get present to the memory. Now, can you tell me, were you giving someone a hug, receiving a hug, or was it a mutual exchange? Hugs can literally teach us how to give and receive. Contrary to the notion that it is better to give than to receive, we need both to thrive. Hugs can be a great tool in teaching us how to receive love and truly let it in.

If you don’t remember that aspect of your experience, there is no judgement, just a gentle reminder to wake-up and get present to the moment. Connect to your heart and the flow of life. This connection is the key to authentic relationship, and it is no coincidence that value of both giving and receiving is demonstrated with every beat of our heart. Our hearts would literally be unable to sustain us, if they didn’t receive the return flow of blood and oxygen from the veins before sending out a fresh supply of blood and oxygen to the rest of the body through the arteries. Beyond the physiology, the nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety, both crucial elements in open and honest communication.

I was blessed to grow up in a family of huggers.

I literally couldn’t walk across the room without getting a hug from my dad. What I didn’t fully appreciate as a child is that my family’s touch showed me that I was loved and special. This association actually gets imprinted at the cellular level and fosters our ability to love ourselves as we go through life. For me, it created a deep sense of safety in the world.

As a mother of four grown children, I continue to be a hugger. My oldest son began shouting out “group hug” when he was only two years old, and wanted to be smothered in a hug between his mom and dad. A tradition that continues today with our entire family. The more the merrier!

Hugging is an investment in relationship, so get out there and start hugging! In this season of giving, I can’t think of a better gift to share with the world, just remember to take it in as well! You can never get too many hugs!

Laura Freix is an entrepreneur and founder of iEmbrace Wellness. She is affectionately referred to as the “soul gardener.” Her open-hearted insights provide alternate perspectives that plant the seeds of possibility in the minds of her clients, and then helps cultivate those seeds by offering tools of empowerment that ultimately lead to transforming individuals into the next best version of themselves. Visit her website to learn more.

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