Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a ‘touchy-feely’ person, as one of my colleagues described me. I tend to make physical contact with people when I’m with them, and I love hugs! They are a simple and direct way of expressing love – no messy awkward words, just a warm embrace.

Do you give and get hugs enough? Several years ago, we did an event for Comic Relief where we gave out almost free hugs in the city centre; a donation of any kind got you a big heartfelt hug. It was both heart-warming and heart-breaking. There were people who said they hadn’t been hugged for over a year; there were teenagers who came back for second and third go’s; there were parents who sent their children forward for a hug. We hugged so many people that our arms ached at the end of it! It felt as if we were offering a public service that was desperately needed, and appreciated. Yet we are all capable of giving a hug to someone.

The benefits of hugs are enormous, to the giver and the receiver: both automatically release oxytocin into their bloodstreams with a heartfelt hug. This affects us emotionally – we feel happier – and also physically: it helps us to stay healthy. And hugs are a form of communication that goes past the ‘edges’ that can develop between us and goes to the core of just showing affection.

Now not everyone is a hugger – some people shrink away from that full embrace. The colleague I mentioned earlier, who said I was touchy-feely was just embarrassed if I went to hug him. So we developed a different form. He would lightly punch my arm and I would hold his fist there for a second or two with my hand. Sounds daft doesn’t it! But even that much physical contact makes a difference to how we feel, more than words ever can.

So put an arm round a shoulder, touch an arm, hold a hand for a moment, or go for that big hug, and share a moment of that health-giving connection – it’s good for all of us!

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