As someone who is not particularly "touchy," the allure of extensive social hugging has never been much of a siren song for me. But according to an increasing number of studies, hugging has some serious benefits. Skeptical? Here are eight reasons why you should do more hugging. Yes, really.
The history of hugging as a social practice seems to have a singular narrative: It's innate. We hold babies when they're young, establishing the groundwork almost instantly. The physical act of hugging is protective, intimate, an exchange both physically and emotionally. There's even an arm of meditation dedicated to the transformative aspects of hugging — "mindful hugging," made popular by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. The basic practice is simple: You hug for the span of three breaths. The first honors your presence in the moment; the second honors the other person; and the third is dedicated to the feelings of happiness and gratitude that arise from your togetherness.
The word "hug" arose around the mid-16th century; a widely accepted theory is that it originated from Scandinavia and is closely related to the word hugga, Norwegian for "comfort and console." Even at its core is kindness. I'll be honest, I'm starting to come around to hugs.
Especially in this current era of violent xenophobia, what sets hugging apart is its role as non-verbal communication. It spans across cultures and languages and backgrounds. It's free, it's kind, it's good, it's clearly what we need a bit more of. And these added health benefits are nice, too.