It is clear that safe, caring physical touch is as important to our health as food, air or water. It's been amply demonstrated that newborns deprival of nurturing touch can actually die, even if their other physical needs are met. Sadly, in our culture physical touch, particularly in the form of hugs, is often seen as unsafe. In particular, men are discouraged from hugging each other lest it be seen as somehow "gay." (As though there's anything wrong with being gay. There isn't). Men and boys can be ridiculed, hurt or even killed just for being affectionate, loving people. To me, this is heartbreaking.
Hugs are a healthy, genuine way to express affection, friendship and love. It should never be wrong to hug a friend of either sex, or your child, brother, sister, father or mother. I have been in dozens of Challenge Days and other workshops where healthy, safe hugging is taught. It's amazing to me that we have to teach how to hug in the first place. But since there's so much unsafe touch in our culture, someone has to model safe touch, so we do.
Challenge Day teaches that we need three hugs a day just to get by, and that with six hugs a day we are doing pretty well, and that 12 hugs a day help us to really thrive. Numerous studies bear this out. Our bodies respond immediately to loving touch. Our heart rate goes down, along with our blood pressure. Our breathing slows, our muscles relax, and our immune systems pick up. Anyone who has spent much time hugging knows exactly what I'm talking about.
You'd think I would have hugging down, and in some ways, I do. I'm considered a world-class hugger by many who know me. I love hugs, both giving and getting. A little over a month ago, after our most recent Challenge Days here in Ukiah, my beloved wife and life partner JoAnn suggested that we begin to actually count how many hugs we gave each other every day, and make a concerted effort to get at least 12.
What soon became apparent was that, even though JoAnn retired from teaching in June, and we live, work and play together 24/7, 12 hugs a day were way more than we had been getting. We realized that, quite unintentionally, we had often been getting by on no more than three hugs a day (if that). JoAnn and I have been together for over 11 years. We adore each other. We're happier together then we've ever been in our lives. And still, these last weeks of going for 12 hugs a day have been amazing! We deserve more! And so do you.
Try this: become fully present with someone you trust (perhaps by taking a deep centering breath or three), ask for a hug, then melt into it with another deep breath. Go ahead and try it right now. Find someone to hug. If you're alone, take a deep breath, relax, and imagine getting a wonderful hug from someone whose hugs you truly adore, and make a mental note to get a hug as soon as you can. I guarantee that one of the surest ways to become drunk with wonder is to get 12 hugs a day. I dare you!