Hug With Heart. The Compassionate Way. I want you to think hard. I want you to think hard about the last time you gave someone or someone gave you...a hug. Can you remember it? Can you remember the way it made you feel? Did it feel good? Did you feel less anxious, appreciated, loved, cared for...? Now when was the last time you engaged in “hugging”? For many of you, it is an ancient practice that has somehow slipped through the cracks of your daily interactions. In our society, the very act of giving or receiving a hug is endangered. Maybe this statement doesn’t evoke the same response that the endangerment of the great bald eagle, or mighty grizzly bear may have; however, I am here to help you embrace the thought that the power of a hug can have profound implications on your life.
HUG: To squeeze someone tightly in your arms.
Seems true enough—seems a little too simple for these “profound implications”. But as with most words, the meaning lies far beyond the text in the dictionary. To Kathleen Keating, author or Hug Therapy, a hug is “the experience of how I meet you, and you meet me, and we meet the world” together. Hugging is an intimate act of bonding to one another. It is a silent mutual expression, and a tool for transformation. The benefits of human touch are also proven physiologically. Your skin is a sense organ, with every inch sensitive to touch. A well-executed embrace stimulates nerve endings to aid in relieving pain and increases haemoglobin levels in your blood to help supply tissues with oxygen. It can lower your cortisol levels to alleviate anxiety or stress, and increase levels of the brain chemical, oxytocin, which promotes bonding and positive social behaviour. With studies showing that emotions have a powerful impact on our health, and hugging having a powerful impact on our emotions...why not take it one step further? Let’s refine the way we are hugging so that both the hugger and huggee can gain the greatest benefits possible. Maximization! Optimization! We need to shift the way we hug, so we can shift the way we feel. In this particular case – I’m literally talking about a physical shift: from the right, to the left.
Imagine you are at the airport waiting to pick up a close friend. As the automatic doors open to reveal the arriving passengers, you excitedly await the sense of recognition when you see them. In the moment your friend comes into view, you smile brightly and begin moving in their direction. You raise both arms – likely, the right one higher, while the left arm drops. You embrace over each others right shoulders. With a final squeeze, you terminate your embrace. In what way can we strengthen this experience? I’d like to introduce you to the concept of Heart-to-Heart hugging.
Heart-to-heart hugging is the physical act of engaging in a hug, while allowing the shared experience of touching hearts. If you picture the right-ward hug we have all been pre-conditioned to give, you will notice that instead of touching hearts, we are touching livers. According to Chinese medicine, the liver is the location in the body where we store difficult emotions – anger, resentment, and pain. The heart, on the other hand, stores JOY. Therefore, if we can shift our hug left-ward, we can share positive energy with our loved ones and magnify the positive effects of our mutual embrace. Next time you hug someone that you care about in your life, try it out: hug them WITH HEART. So, if I haven’t yet convinced you to go out into the world and squeeze the stuffing out of your loved ones....
Here is my final appeal:
“Hugging feels good. [It] overcomes fears [and] eases tension. [It] provides stretching exercises if you are tall. Hugging does not upset the environment. [It] saves heat, is portable, [and] requires no special equipment. [Hugging] makes happy days happier, and impossible days possible.”