A few years ago, my Chiropractor back then, and myself were having a vulnerable, heart to heart open conversation. We shared some personal stories and then hugged goodbye. We both paused for a long minute as this was not the usual, let me just be polite kind of a hug. This was deep felt, warmth filled emotional kind of a hug.
So, we are staring at each-other with a look in our face of – did you feel it too? After another minute of sinking it in I shared my own personal experience with regards to hugs (and believe me, there is a hell of a story there). The chiropractor then looks at me (with teary eyes), smiles and says:” hey, why don’t you teach us how to hug?”. Not knowing who “we” is exactly, next thing I know there is a pamphlet at the front desk of the clinic for an upcoming seminar about hugs.
Preparing for it, I’ve done tons of research and found some crazy things. Did you know that the U.S is one of the most touch-phobic societies in the world? And that the level of touch-phobic(ness) has a direct correlation to the level of violence in that society? Pretty scary, ha?
I also learned that in a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of perceived social support and the receipt of hugs on the participants' susceptibility to developing the common cold after being exposed to the virus. People who perceived greater social support were less likely to come down with a cold.
Key words – SOCIAL SUPPORT!
That’s right people – when we as human creatures, who NEED (not want) to FEEL part of a group, sense of belonging, related, socially supported. When we, feel that way we are: less stressed, less feared, it lowers our blood pressure, it can even be good for our hearts.
Let’s examine (and reminisce) some of the top types of physical hugs out there:
1. The “Half-Hug”
2. The “Tap-Tap Hug” (one of my favorites….NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!)
3. The “Side Hug”
4. The “Cry on my shoulder Hug”
5. The “Let me just enjoy the moment Hug”
6. The “Crusher Hug”
But if we are socially distanced these days, if we cannot physically get these feelings through actual touches – handshakes, hugs etc., how do we then maintain the level of social support?
Well ladies and gentlemen I present to you.....drum rolls......number seven......
The "Virtual Hug"!!
You know how sometimes you read someone’s post and it makes you feel good? Or how you get on a conference call and find yourself smile after hanging up? Or you get an email from someone just wondering how you are doing, and it sends a wave of warmth through your body? Well, this is when the Oxytocin is released. “The bonding hormone” “the love drug” – it promotes relationship attachment. When released, some of it goes into the bloodstream but some remains in the part of the brain that impacts mood, behavior and psychology.
On the mood front, Oxytocin is known to increase levels of feel-good hormones such as Serotonin and Dopamine.
During my career I have spent thousands and thousands of hours communicating online. There are so many different ways to make it more human, more socially supportive, more….virtually hugging. And same goes for these days when we are simply forced to communicate online.
Here is a perfect example of a Virtual Hug during times of Corona:
Tomorrow, at 6pm, all of the people in my neighborhood will go out to their driveway for some socially distanced, social event. We (the HOA) have asked everyone to take pictures and upload them to the neighborhood’s facebook page. For about an hour or so, we will all FEEL socially supported. The Oxytocin level in the neighborhood will rise and everyone will be….well….virtually hugged.