When I was a school teacher, I instituted a process that I had learned from Jack Canfield called “H or H” which was short for “Hug or a Handshake?” The premise was that I would stand at the door and greet each child every day with either a hug or a handshake (their choice.) Only one student in the class consistently chose a handshake, while every other one opted for a hug. I loved the practice because it allowed me to connect with every student every day, even the ones who were adept at hiding out behind the cloak of being quiet and good; in other words, unseen. I wondered about the one boy who always chose handshakes, but decided that some people just aren’t huggers. Then one day his mom called and said, “I don’t know what you are doing at school, but every time my son comes home from school he gives me a huge hug!” I loved hearing that he was getting hugs at home and sharing the “H and H” with his mom, making their interaction more loving.
Recently, I had a retreat guest here for a week. Even though he sought the retreat, and showed up to all the sessions, he had an aloofness about him. I discussed the situation with the team of practitioners working with him and questioned whether he was getting what he needed from the experience. This is a rare thing for me as most of our guests are clearly benefitting. When his final session arrived, I checked in with him about how he felt his retreat was going and was surprised to hear him say, “This is exactly what I needed.” When I checked in with him again a couple months later I was delighted to hear that he felt his retreat had made a very positive impact on his life. He then revealed that one of the things that made a huge impact was being exposed to hugs. He shared that in his work world and daily life, there was very little personal connection with others. Both being hugged and observing people offering hugs to others as a means of healing, welcome, heartfelt connection or departure touched his heart. It was surprising to hear that this “side-effect” of the retreat was part of what was so meaningful to him.
But it shouldn’t have surprised me.
Dr. Mercola points out that there are significant health benefits from hugging. Stress reduction, a boosted immune system, lower risk of heart disease and less depression can all result from a 10-second hug a day. He also pointed out that in one study they discovered that one-third of people receive no hugs per day and 75 percent said they wanted more hugs. Where do you fall in that spectrum? What are your own hug statistics?
Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day to survive, eight hugs a day for maintenance and twelve hugs a day for growth.” My guess is that most of us are falling far short of that quota. I invite you to turn your attention to your own relationships and see if you can up your hug ante. Do you get or give hugs every day? How long do your hugs last? Do you suffer from the “hit and run” hug that is so fast it barely counts or the “burp the baby” hug that is accompanied by several slaps on the back?
What if you just increase your hug mindfulness with your sweetheart, children, parents or friends to include greetings and departures? Since some of you aren’t “huggers,” see what happens if you just reach out and touch, hold hands, or put your arm around your loved ones a little bit more often. Make it an experiment and let us know how increased touch impacts your relationships and your mood. But before you go throwing yourself onto everyone you meet, hug etiquette suggests that you simply ask, “Are you a hugger?” prior to assuming that the other person actually wants to be hugged. You might even simply ask, “Hug or a handshake?” and see what happens. Mindful touch may well be the secret to happier, healthier relationships.