Have You Had Your Dose Today?

Here’s an idea that never gets old: Give someone a warm embrace.

Is hugging a good deed? You be the judge: Hugging can lower stress and blood pressure, trigger the brain to release happy chemicals, raise self-esteem and trust, and foster a connection. By hugging another person, you’re doling out a dose of pretty powerful medicine. You’re probably also getting back some of those same goods in the process. Call it an even deal.

Yesterday I was explaining to my daughter the health benefits of hugs, and she instantly reacted by giving me a tight embrace. How lucky am I to have hug therapy right in my own home?

(My mind is now going off a bit of a tangent to dredge up this old memory: A guy I used to know had a T-shirt that read: “Hug Therapist.” His little boy, just learning to read, had a totally misguided interpretation of this message after he sounded out the letters: “Hug… the… rapist… Daddy, what’s a rapist?” So maybe the point was atrociously missed in that instance, but certainly the dad’s heart was in the right place.)

Last year around this time, my friend’s daughter, a university student, got together with a classmate to do a “Free Hugs” giveaway event. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s where you hold out a sign and offer hugs to passersby, total strangers all of them. At these young students’ first free-hugs station, inside a shopping mall, they got thrown out – apparently you need a permit to hand out hugs. Who knew?

But then they set themselves up on their university campus instead. The girl’s mom told me some people preferred virtual hugs – this was at the height of H1N1 wariness – while others just gave them a small smile and walked on. Apparently more than a few folks thought they were off the wall. But they also got lots of takers, some accepting their hugs one-on-one, others participating in a group dose. “She said after three hours she felt absolutely fantastic, and it was the best thing she had done in ages,” her mom told me. “Totally affirming about humanity!”

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some inspirational videos of free hugging around the world – not to mention some pretty cool musical backdrops: here’s Italy, Australia, Scotland, Vancouver and Toronto. Go forth and hug.

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