Hugs. In many circles, a common way to greet old friends and new acquaintances alike. A simple act, but one that can mean so much. As any child can tell you, hugs signal love, solace and refuge.
At Flower we have a habit of hugging. Each other, visitors, family. That’s partly because our Founder, Jean Truelson, is a long-time hugger. Even at college, offering up big hugs was her trademark.
This practice of the friendly, affectionate embrace has contributed to making Flower an extra-special place to work. And it turns out there are reasons for that.
Hugs Fight Loneliness
Brain science tells us hugs can make the difference between loneliness and a sense of belonging. Oxytocin, sometimes called the cuddle hormone, is released when we give or receive a hug and “promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding.”
Isolated, lonely people tend to have poorer health, and researchers are finding that regular contact helps to improve physical health as well. This finding is especially important for older people, who are often isolated. According to Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health.”
Hugs Reduce Stress
Many common ailments can be tied back to stress, from colds to high blood pressure. Research is demonstrating that regularly embracing your partner can help to lower heart rates as well as blood pressure.
“…new research out of Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness.”
Hugs Signify Connection
The great Zen Buddhist teacher and writer Thich Nhat Hanh recognizes the importance of human connection in creating a compassionate and inclusive society. He writes in his meditation, How to Love,
When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others.
Believing in this notion, he went on to develop a meditation centered on hugging. As he explains,
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.