How to give a good hug might seem obvious, but it really isn’t. And here’s why: not everyone wants to be hugged. Have you ever walked up to someone, hugged them, and felt their body straight as a board? Very awkward indeed.
Of all the universal gestures of affection hugging is at the top of the list. It transcends language and is an expression of our need as humans to physically connect with one another.
So why do we hug? Touching one another, especially via hugging releases the ‘bonding hormone’ oxytocin. When this hormone is in the blood stream it helps to relieve stress and can lower blood pressure. We really need those hugs!
Here is how to give a good conscious hug:
The first step is to ask permission. Look the person you wish to hug directly in the eyes and ask them: “Would you like to share a hug?” If someone’s arms are already reaching out to you may not need to ask.
Honour someone by giving them the choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ When someone does say ‘no’ to a hug, let go of taking it personally – this is not about you. It is about them. Giving them the option to say ‘no’ instead of grabbing them is being conscious and honouring their wishes; without judgment.
When someone says “yes’ go ahead and embrace them, until you feel it is time to let go. One of you will loosen your hold and begin to move away. If someone begins to end the hug, please do not hang on tighter and force them to stay.
As you move into the embrace, step into the hug and let your hearts and bodies connect. Avoid slapping the back please. When you pat someone’s back it indicates you are not really present. (As children we were often forced to hug people we did not want to – now we have the option, let’s use it.)
When the hug feels complete, let go and share a ‘thank you’, again looking into their eyes.
One of my favourite authors Thich Nhat Hahn shared a practice he called “hugging meditation.”You have to really hug the person you are holding. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart. Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.
I wish you an abundant spring and summer filled with much love, passion and adventure. As always I am here to support you in this life journey – and welcome your feedback.