Touch is the cornerstone of mental well-being. We all thrive on touch. Touch conveys love, acceptance, caring, understanding. It makes us feel grounded and strong. Studies have shown that touch deactivates the stress regions of the brain. Human touch has been proven to be vital to our psychological, and physical well-being.
Studies show that the right kind of touch, the reassuring pat on the back or warm embrace, elicits in the recipient the release of oxytocin, a neurochemical that promotes trust and co-operation.
According to Sheldon Cohen, a Carnegie Mellon University Professor of Psychology, "Loving platonic touch such as hugging has also been shown to strengthen the immune system, decrease stress, and reduce anxiety. “Being hugged by a trusted person might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress,”
The great Zen Buddhist Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh devised the Hugging Meditation to bridge the east-west cultural schism; the practice is a fusion of hugging with mindfulness. When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings. Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring reconciliation, healing, understanding, and much happiness.
When you hug another human being you connect with him/her deeply, your focus is on yourself and the other person. You need to be totally present to do it effectively. When you mindfully hug another person you are conveying to him/her that you are there totally. This gives the other person a deep sense of being lovable which can be healing and transformative.
According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are holding. 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.
Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both be three hundred years from now; and with the third in-breath and out-breath, be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive. When you hug this way, the other person becomes real and alive.
What better and easier way to heal ourselves, our families and our community. A hug not just feels good, it is good for our well-being. And the best part, the effect is not just a momentary – the effects of a hug last a long time.
So let's not wait till it's Christmas for a reason to hug. Let's hug each other right now and give each other the gift of our presence.