Things would be better if we could just hug

Ironic, isn’t it?

In a time when people are enduring stress, fear and uncertainty, the perfect treatment for these ailments is something not readily available.

We’re talking about hugs.

Science is pretty clear about this.

Hugs elicit hormonal and neurological responses. They release oxytocin, the so-called ‘love’ hormone. Hugs and other methods of touching can lower blood pressure, and ease physical pain. They just make people feel better.

One study, referenced in an October 2019 article in Psychology Today, suggests that regular hugging bolsters the immune system and may favourably influence the rate of infection from a cold, as well as its symptoms.

Ironic, isn’t it?

It ought to be noted not everyone is a fan of the hug.

One of my dearest friends abhors them.

He’s been social distancing since infancy and somewhere on that body I’m sure there’s a tattoo that says: ‘No hugs please, we’re British.’

Come to think of it, he’s been positively chipper these past few weeks.

Because he’s an anti-hugger, he’s usually the first person I want to squeeze whenever we get together in a group.

Part of that is born from the inexplicable satisfaction it gives me to rub others the wrong way.

But mostly it’s because, knowing that he’d rather chew on tin foil than stand there with his arms around me, it makes that hug more special. That’s love, and a super rush of oxytocin.

Mr. DeMeer’s hugs are adequate.

I usually have to ask for them though, and he has this annoying habit of patting my back, like he’s trying to burp me.

Beggars cannot be choosers, but more than once since this pandemic began I have looked around the house at husband and sons, desperate for a hug and thinking, “Are there no other options?”

My father died a month ago, in a care home in Ontario. Under provincial orders there could be no funeral, no visitation and no hugs.

Even before corona virus, hugs were going out of fashion.

Despite the clear benefits of a hug — and it is unfortunately understandable — doctors, teachers and others who might dispense a comforting touch are discouraged or prohibited to do so.

Today there are ‘professional cuddlers’ who sell hugs and non-sexual touching. (Those businesses probably aren’t open right now.)

You can buy a hugging vest, a chair that hugs and hugging pillows that will communicate with your smartphone.

A hug, a caress, skin-to-skin contact, a massage — all these things are proven important to mental and physical health, and human development.

Take as many hugs as you can get, where you can get them, safely.

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