By Gian Fiero
Have you hugged your child today? It was a popular slogan that was coined in 1969. I think it’s time to modify the phrase to: Have you hugged your loved one today?
Most couples report the perfunctory kiss upon their greeting or departure as their most consistent form of affection outside of sex. It’s not enough. We should never mistake or substitute sex for affection. Affection expressed through hugging is therapeutic and fulfills our basic, human need for touching or being touched. It also relaxes us and lowers our blood pressure. In essence, affectionate touching can improve and prolong our lives.
Couples should indeed put forth greater effort to be affectionate with each other. Those who do tend to report greater harmony, a closer bond, and fewer conflicts in their relationships.
In his book Touching: The Human Significance of Skin, Dr. Ashley Montagu examines the importance of touch on all aspects of human development. Through an analysis of the study of mammal, monkey, ape and human behaviors, he concludes that just as breathing is a basic physical need for these species, touch is a basic behavioral need and when this need remains unsatisfied, abnormal behavior is a likely outcome. He writes:
“Both the hugger and the person being hugged benefit because they have the immediate positive outcome of feeling good. Hugs are heartwarming and can have the effect of leaving one energized and rejuvenated. A caregiver’s hug accurately expresses to a child feelings of love, acceptance, comfort and a desire for closeness.”
“Hugging is health-enhancing because it reduces tension and stress, aids the immune system, helps with sleep, assists in building self-esteem and best of all has no negative side effects. When we open our hearts and arms to others, we inspire them to do likewise.”
Former late night talk show host Arsenio Hall made the “man hug” acceptable. He greeted his guests – both female and male – with a warm embrace. It set the tone for the intimate conversations which followed. His guests seemed to be oblivious to the cameras and the studio audience as they revealed information about themselves to Arsenio that they probably would not reveal to another talk show host. Ditto for Oprah Winfrey. Her warm embrace is not only welcoming, but comforting to her guests.
There are many types of hugs that are given in different situations. The hugs that you see given at airports tend to be longer in duration. Hugs that are given to people that you have not seen in a while tend to be more enthusiastic. Hugs that are romantically inspired tend to be more intense and sometimes are given back-to-front (one person from behind who wraps their arms around the other), which carries sexual connotations. Then there’s the sideways hug which is essentially a one-armed embrace that shows friendliness and acceptance.
No matter what type of hug you give or receive, a hug is a hug and it carries emotional benefits. In fact, hugging is so therapeutic that there is a National Hugging Day (January 21) which was created in 1986 by Rev. Kevin Zaborney from Caro, Michigan. Zaborney created the day to promote “the emotional benefits of hugging.”
You now know that hugs are therapeutic pills that we can prescribe to each other. They supply our souls with the nutrients of affection that we all need for our mental health, and emotional well-being. Taking the time or making the effort to give more hugs is clearly a rewarding experience for both the person giving it, and the person receiving it.
Have your hugged your loved one today? If not, there’s no better time than the present.
Gian Fiero is an educator, speaker and consultant. He specializes in business development, career planning, and personal growth issues. He is affiliated with San Francisco State University as an adjunct professor, and the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) as a business advisor where he conducts monthly workshops in addition to lecturing throughout the country.