I can still remember the moment my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Moffit, explained that electrons can leave one atom and enter another atom. I couldn’t believe everyone else was just sitting there calmly, taking notes. Did they not understand what he just said? I stared at my pencil, imagining the contents of the pencil and the contents of my hand flowing back and forth. If our atoms didn’t respect their boundaries, where did I end and the pencil begin? I looked at the most popular girl in the room and wondered if we were sharing any electrons. I wondered if any of the electrons that ended up in my atoms had ever been to Mars. That chemistry lesson was probably the most profound lesson I learned in high school because it taught me that we are all truly connected even if we can’t see it.
A hug is the perfect physical representation of that idea. If done right, you can feel yourself becoming a part of the other person. Here are the four best hugs I’ve ever been a part of:
- I started going to Nicaragua when I was 12 years old to help build houses and schools with an organization called Bridges to Community. On one particular trip I really connected with a mom who was receiving the house we were building. I can’t remember her name, but I still remember the hug. At first it was just a polite good-bye hug, but then she held me tighter, and I could feel myself letting go of any notions that we were separate. Although we had very different lives I had never felt closer to anyone before. We hugged for a long long time, crying mostly.
- On our second date, Mike took me to the county fair in Middlesex, NJ. It was an incredible night, and when the last available train home came, we held on to each other, not wanting the night to end. I knew then that I wasn’t ever going to stop hugging him…and now we’re getting married and no train schedule is ever going to keep us apart
- At every Defy Ventures event we start off the evening with ten bear hugs. First we look into one another’s eyes, say the person’s name, and one thing we love about them. Then we hug. These are incredible hugs, and they’re nurturing for everyone. In prison, the former inmates learned that it wasn’t safe to touch anyone. For years they went without any physical contact. This is a huge part of the healing process. For the volunteers, it’s a great reminder that these are human beings with feelings, insecurities, and needs – the opposite of how they are normally portrayed in society: scary, unpredictable villains.
- I can’t pinpoint the best hug I’ve received during all the TLC courses I’ve taken because they’re all so heartfelt and unguarded. Research shows that eight hugs a day releases oxytocin and lowers blood pressure. I definitely get a year’s worth of hug benefits in those three days.
Here are some tips on giving a great hug:
- Don’t pat the person’s back. It makes them feel like a baby getting burped, and it also feels like nervous fidgeting.
- Don’t be the first to pull away.
- Try to breathe in and out at the same pace as the person you’re hugging.