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Hugging for Health

"I will not play Tug O' War, I'd rather play Hug O' War; Where everyone hugs, instead of tugs, And everyone giggles and rolls on the rug. Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins; everyone cuddles, and everyone wins". - Shel Silverstein

There is lots of hugging in our family. I am not too macho to say that at age thirty-seven the first thing I want to do when I see my Father is to hug him. (Mom too, but that seems more "normal" in our sometimes counter-productive western civilization.) My daughter is now seventeen months old. One of the words she now understands is hug. If I ask her to "Go hug your Grandma", she'll do it. More importantly to me, if I say "Come hug Daddy" she will happily do that too.

I've noticed in the past few days how completely alive I feel when she is hugging me, regardless of what was on my mind, positive or troubling, prior to the hug. Her hug changes my world. This morning before I left for a business trip my seven year old son got up early to say goodbye to me. The best part of this goodbye was a big hug - initiated by him. This morning I re-heard, on a tape a fact about hugging. The speaker said that most people get far too few hugs each day. The research cited on this tape said that we need eight hugs a day for maintenance and twelve per day for growth.

All of these events lead me to write about hugs. I like to hug. I believe in hugs, largely because that's how I was brought up. I hug in the workplace. I hug clients and peers, and I hug at conferences. Over the past few years, with all of the focus on sexual harassment, it has sometimes caused me to pause and wonder if my hugs are "unwelcomed." and could therefore become a problem. I hope that being conscious of this has made me more careful and led me to avoid any potential problems. On the other hand, I'm more pleased to say that I still hug.

Hugging is a way of connecting with others, of showing your genuine affection and appreciation, of valuing others, and of giving. All of these are positive, healthy, life enhancing purposes. While hugging is natural and we all know how to do it, I have put together some guidelines to help make you a better hugger.

  • Begin the hug with great eye contact. This communicates to the receiver the spirit in which the hug is being given.
  • Be present during the hug. Even if the hug is only for three seconds, devote your total energy and focus on the person you are hugging. Feel how good it feels to both give and receive.
  • When you finish the hug and are pulling away, make great eye contact again. This further blesses the receiver, and communicates a positive feeling to them.
  • A hug is not an opportunity to burp the other person! Be gentle. This goes especially for the guys - a hug isn't the start of a wrestling match either.
  • Avoid the one-hip hug or the tee-pee hug. If you are going to hug, do it right! (And this isn't an excuse, to make the hug overtly sexual either - to the sexual harassment point above - unless, well, that's another article!)
  • If you are much taller than the other person, bend your knees. Make the hug comfortable and a blessing.
  • If you are hugging children, get on your knees and be at their eye level. If they are small enough, pick them up to hug them.

    All of these guidelines are about making the hug a completely positive, giving experience. As in many other things in our lives, when we think about others, we can make better decisions. The same is true for hugs - hug with the huggee in mind!

    Take a few minutes today to think about how often you give and receive hugs. Remind yourself how it feels to be the receiver of a really good hug - how it can improve your outlook and general emotional state. Do you get your RDR (Recommended Daily Requirement) of hugs each day? If not, why not? Ask yourself whose day could I improve by giving them one or more hugs today.

    Your answers to these questions will tell you what to do. The guidelines in this article may help you if you are a bit out-of-practice. But please, for your own benefit as well as the benefit of those you care about, hug someone today.

    (c) Copyright 2000, the Discian Group. All rights reserved.
    Kevin Eikenberry is a speaker, trainer, author, and President of the Discian Group. discian.com - a learning consulting company. He authors a monthly article on learning from life's events called Vantagepoints. If you liked this article, you can read more or subscribe for free at VantagePoints