Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
I am a hugger. If I had it my way, all greetings would be hugs and formality would just be dictated by how long you maintain them. Even if that dream were to be a reality, it’d be impossible with the state the world is in right now.
For months and months, we’ve all either been stuck inside away from everyone or only seeing each other with some form of distancing between us. I’ve been sticking to the rules pretty strictly, so for the most part, this has meant lots of outdoor meetings with my friends with NO HUGS. I’ve spent hours nattering with my favourite people on park benches with NO HUG at the end, even after deep chats (when you undoubtedly need them most).
Of course, I’m grateful to have been able to see people at all in this difficult time, but the lack of physical contact has made it so bittersweet. Especially after months apart, my first instinct is to give my best friends a big squeeze lasting several minutes and then hold their hand for at least half an hour. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not—that’s just us.
It’s not just a personal quirk which makes me and my friends enjoy hugging so much. Scientific research has concluded that hugging and similar physical contact can lower blood pressure, mitigate pain and reduce anxiety. On top of this, hugging is one of the actions which prompts the release of oxytocin into the body. The chemical, sometimes referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’, is associated with increasing happiness and reducing stress.
Hugging makes you happier. Don’t take my word for it—trust science.
Of course, hugging isn’t for everyone, and physical contact like hugs can be very uncomfortable for neurodivergent people, those suffering from trauma or people who just aren’t a fan, but for me, they’re one of the most effective ways to instantly pick me up when I might be struggling with my mental health. They would’ve been particularly useful both this and last year.
Virginia Satir, a family therapist, even once said: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Considering I’ve been getting perhaps one hug a week from my parents during lockdown, I’ve been severely lacking. I feel hug-deficient.
Most human beings are built to be touched—to feel comfort, solidarity, intimacy, the list is endless—which is why the pandemic has left a lot of us feeling a psychological phenomenon called ‘skin hunger’, often seen in prisoners after stints in solitary confinement. Our nervous systems themselves are ‘hungry’ for the impulses sent to our brains by physical touch, without which we eventually deteriorate, physically and emotionally.
I almost wish there were hug-pills, and when you wanted to feel comforted you could just pop one and get an instant shot of oxytocin and a brilliant smile on your face. But, really, nothing could ever replicate the authentic feeling of someone’s arms around you, your energies in sync with a genuine emotional connection.
I can only hope that by the time this is published, I’ll have my arms around the people I love most once again. Because, frankly, I’m getting desperate.