What do I miss – hugs !!

I decided to jot down some of the things that I really miss as a result of Covid and the restrictions that we need to follow to stay safe and healthy.  As we enter our 10th month of the pandemic, I will admit that it is taking a little bit of a toll.  Nothing serious.

First and foremost, I am so grateful that I have remained virus free, knock on wood.  And I am so grateful that my children, extended family, and friends are by and large safe.  For the few of my friends that have contracted the virus, thank goodness they were able to weather the discomfort without having to go to the hospital and they are fine now.

Having said that, the reality is that over the last 10 months the protocols required have had an impact.  At least they have on me.

I have made a list of what I miss the most during this period.  It is not a short list.  But the first item on it, and the one that is the one I miss the most is hugging.  Yes, indeed.

4 Reasons Why Hugs Are Good for You

Never thought that much about the value of a hug before, but, boy, do I miss being able to hug a loved one, a friend, and a person who is in need of a hug.  A hug can show love, affection, friendship, or sympathy.

9 Different Types of Hugs and What They Reveal About Your Relationship. Decode Them Now!

Now, the closest thing I can do is pump a fist with another person, or trade elbows.  Weird and totally unsatisfying.  These do not come close to what a hug provides to either party.

When I say I miss a hug, and the ability to give a hug, I am referring to a really good hug.  I am not talking about any pathetic effort at a hug.  No, sir.  I am talking about a real hug.  A real hug has both arms around the other person in some form or fashion.  High, low, fully embraced, or not.  But there is no question that there is some real emotion involved in the embrace with the arms.

A real good hug is not just about the arms.  No way.  It includes the upper part of the body too.  The body frame.  And it includes more often than not a head on a shoulder.  A real hug involves multiple parts of the body.  And a real good hug lasts for more than a few seconds.  The longer the hug, the more it means.

7 Reasons Why We Should Be Giving More Hugs | HuffPost Life

But more importantly it involves some real emotion.

It is sending a message that is heartfelt.  I care about you.  I am so glad to be with you, see you and spend time with you.  I have your back.  These are all the kinds of messages that a hug transmits.

In the past, pre-Covid, I took hugging for granted. I did not think of it as a big deal, or a particularly special event or occasion.  But now, without it, I sure miss it.  I now really understand how important a hug can be to communicating with another human being.  It can be so important to connecting with another person.  It can be crucial in engaging at a deep level with another.

The power of a hug can help you cope with conflict

This void in my life has provoked my curiosity.  I have done a little bit of research on hugging.

It turns out that hugging is good for your health. I did not have any idea that there were some health benefits from hugging.  Here are some pretty amazing excerpts from an article written by Stacey Colino in US News and World Report.

  • “In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, Carnegie Mellon University lead researcher Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology, said “Hugging is a marker of intimacy and helps generate the feeling that others are there to help in the face of adversity.”
  • How hugging fits in: “When you’re hugging or cuddling with someone, [he or she is] stimulating pressure receptors under your skin in a way that leads to a cascade of events including an increase in vagal activity, which puts you in a relaxed state,” explains psychologist Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. One theory is that stimulation of the vagus nerve triggers an increase in oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is often called “the bonding hormone” because it promotes attachment in relationships, including between mothers and their newborn babies. It influences mood, behavior and physiology.
  • The hugging and oxytocin release that comes with it can then have trickle-down effects throughout the body, causing a decrease in heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. In a 2011 study of postpartum mothers, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill found that hugs lower blood pressure.
  • Moreover, in some studies involving animals, “oxytocin has been found to diminish inflammation following acute stroke and cardiac arrest,” notes Greg Norman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.
  • There’s also some evidence that oxytocin can improve immune function and pain tolerance.  A 2010 study from Ohio State University found that couples with more positive communication behaviors have higher levels of oxytocin and they heal faster from wounds.
  • On the mood front, oxytocin is known to increase levels of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which may be why it has calming effects. “It reduces depression and anxiety, and it may have an effect on attentional disorders,” Field says. In fact, a 2010 study from Ohio State University found that when socially-housed animals were treated with a pharmacological agent that inhibited oxytocin signaling, they exhibited an increase in depressive-like behavior.
  • The take-home message: Just because we’re in the midst of cold and flu season, there’s no reason to keep your distance from people you care about. “Like diet and exercise, you need a steady daily dose of hugging,” Field says. But the quality of the hugging counts, too. “If you get a flimsy hug, that’s not going to do it,” Field says. “You need a firm hug” to stimulate oxytocin release.
  • Of course, you won’t actually know if your oxytocin level shoots up with hugging, but don’t sweat it. The hug itself is likely to make you feel supported and cared about. “I suggest not worrying too much about the oxytocin portion, since what really matters is how these interactions impact emotional well-being,” Norman says. In this case, feeling is as good as believing in the power of oxytocin.”

The one statement above that stands out to me is the quote from Dr. Field, who says “Just because we’re in the midst of cold and flu season, there’s no reason to keep your distance from people you care about. Like diet and exercise, you need a steady daily dose of hugging.”

In my opinion, as in cold and flu seasons mentioned above, during Covid times there is a need to have a steady dose of hugging too.  Can’t we find a way to provide a hug that does not transmit the dreaded virus?  For example, can we hug if we wear double masks and hold our breath during the hug?

Coronavirus: Family finds way to hug during lockdown | UK News | Sky News

I want to hug so many people!  And I wouldn’t mind being hugged myself.

Teacher Creates Special Suit to Hug Her Students

7 thoughts on “What do I miss – hugs !!”

  1. Yes Neil, I remember in High School all the guys were yearning for “vagal activity” now I understand. Thanks. Keep safe and dance on. are you dancing during the “Dampendic”?

  2. So well written and so true. Very interesting about the health benefits. Feel my virtual hug and I’m with you. Won’t it be great when we are able to hug again. Ah, the little things we say,, but truly what were once considered the little things we are realizing those are the big things. Maybe this pandemic has a purpose.

  3. Interesting about how hugs can actually give physical relief. Post Covid will definitely be hugging more than before just to make up for it!! Here is a virtual hug 🤗 for now!

  4. Thanks for this Neil. It does make allot of sense.
    Marti and I and the dogs arrived in Palm Springs on Friday. We drove rather than fly because of Covid concerns. Let’s catch up.

  5. Hi Neil,
    I have been meaning to email you, but time flies by at this time of year. First, I am sorry to hear about your red ant experience. How are you faring now?

    Secondly, about the massage chairs-yes they are a “treat”. I have from time to time used them when getting a pedicure. You can easily get spoiled.

    Thirdly=yes, hugs are the thing I miss most too, and think about it every day. We have had no contact with anyone, hardly. Yesterday, I went for a walk with my neighbor, social distancing, but we did well. But no hugs. It seemed strange. It is a natural activity to hug people you know, and I sincerely miss hugging our church friends and even strangers, to make them feel welcome. Its just a thing I do- and thats the thing I miss. You are correct in the above assessment . You are great at researching, kudos to you. You have a gift for that.

    Will you spend Christmas in Indio, or back to Seattle.? I was going to ask months ago, is it sincerely as bad in Seattle as they make out on T.V. Just want to ask someone who actually lives there.

    As with covid-you never know what is the “truth”. Its so all skewed, and all over the map. We are lucky-we have a comfortable home, all decorated for Christmas, as there is still so much to be thankful for each and every day. Just to count our blessings each day takes a lot of time.. I have hobbies, too many to even count, to keep me busy, as well as the usual daily activity. We were able to get out in the motorhome many times in Sept. /Oct. and really enjoyed it-just keeping to ourselves, we really explored Victoria , and got to know it better, also as far North as Campbell River, some of the islands, Salt Spring. It is now put to bed alongside the house, till spring. So, at least we got out a bit, self-contained.

    Our church has been closed down again. So sad. But I believe that our Lord is taking this time for people to come to know Him better, I am spending more time in my Bible and prayer. It feels good!

    If I can, I will send you a few pics of my decorations this year. Only about half of what i did last year, but we had many social get-togethers last year. This year-NOT. Its just Earl and I.

    We wish you a very Merry Christmas, and pray for you and your family to stay safe and healthy. All the best for 2021.

    HUGS, Liz.

    1. liz,

      so great to hear from you, and Earl too. thanks for the update. one of the really tough things about the pandemic has been the interruption of the wonderful comradery that exists between Canadians and Americans. those of us in the States sure miss you and your Canadian compatriots this winter!!

      all my best, neil

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