I did not grow up in a “touchy/feely” family. My parents were not the “touchy/feely” kind, thus it should come as no surprise that they didn’t demonstrate the fine art of hugging . . . at least not around us kids as we were growing. Since the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, I am not much of a “hugger” myself. Now I do not want to leave the impression that because my parents or siblings were not the huggy, touchy/feely sort neither am I . . . that would be wrong. Over the years I have participated—both on the giving and receiving end—in hugging. My wife comes from a hugging family . . . all touchy/feeling . . . and, in order to survive one has to learn to jump into the hugging culture or run like hell in the opposite direction. Over the span of my lifetime I have done both . . . but, I would not classify myself as being a “hugger”.
Working on my sixth decade of life, I am learning that maybe I need to reconsider the “hug”. Apparently there are health benefits in hugging. Sure, hugs make you feel good . . . but, they do so much more! Who would of thought that a little squeezing could be good for a person.
For one thing, it decreases the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone. When hugging, instead of those pesky stress hormones being released, the body blocks them creating a surge of “feel good” brain chemicals. Hugging reduces stress and makes you feel good. Again, not being a “hugger”, the very thought of hugging another person stresses me out . . . my body is flooded with cortisol just at the thought of having to hug someone else. Stresses me out, not because the other person or myself doesn’t deserve a hug, but because I am an awkward hugger. Not having a lot of experience I always seem to come at hugging like it is some strange mating dance with arms flailing in a hundred directions . . . I am not quite sure at what I am supposed to do. You know, if you are going to hug someone you should do it “right” . . . my problem is I’m just not sure what is “right”. Most of my hugs are like to bumper cars running into each other . . . contact was made. Hugging . . . just the thought of hugging . . . creates stress for me.
Another thing that researchers suggest that hugging can do for folks is to lower their blood pressure and slow down the heart rate in stressful situations. I guess if a hug can limit the release of stressful hormones it would make sense that it would reduce blood pressure and slow down the old ticker. I can buy that . . . but, the places in my life where I feel under stress are not places that I would see as being conducive to hugging. Making my daily commute to the big city to work each day is stressful. Each day I can feel my stress grow as I am driving . . . feel my cheeks burning red as my blood pressure rises . . . thanks to all the idiot drivers I encounter on a daily basis. It is not a pretty sight and no amount of yelling or sign language makes me feel any better.
Researchers are suggesting that a hug could help in that situation . . . I guess I could rear-end one of those idiot drivers . . . jump out of my car and embrace them before they beat the living bejebbers out of me. At least after they beat me to a pulp I know that I will have low blood pressure and my heart—if it is still beating—will be beating at a slower rate.
I also do not think that my boss would want me interrupting her yelling at me when I screw up for a hug . . . just to make me feel better. Nor do I think that the law enforcement officer who pulls me over to ticket me for road rage and speeding will want me to embrace him or her while issuing me a ticket . . . just to make me feel better. And, I also do not think that Internal Revenue Service auditors care too much for hugs as they are taking me to the cleaners . . . even if it would make me feel better signing off on that big check. Internal Revenue Service auditors just don’t strike me as the “hugging” type. Sad, if they were the “hugging” type they just might live a little longer.
Lastly, researchers claim that hugging can strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of getting sick when under stress. Sort of a “hug a day keeps the doctor away” philosophy . . . I understand that the apple growers are not too cool on this idea. Besides, how does this work? If I am at work and suddenly feel a bit ill, do I go up to one of my co-workers and get a hug? I work with all women in my office . . . married women . . . happily married women . . . and all I can envision is getting slapped . . . slapped silly and written up on harassment complaints. Just the thought of that makes me feel sick . . . I think I need a hug.
The bottom line on this is that “hugging” is good for you . . .
. . . for me, I am not too sure.
As I stated earlier, I did not grow up in a family of “huggers”. Throw into that mix that I am a loner and appreciate my company over just about most other company . . . attribute that to my being an introvert. As an introvert I feel “hugging” is an act of invasion into my space . . . into my domain . . . into my kingdom. And, lastly, I feel really awkward when it comes to hugging. As a pastor there are times when the most powerful ministry I can be a part of is to give and receive a “hug”. For me these are pretty stressful situations . . . an awkward dance . . . a comedy of errors. Because of all this I do not consider myself to be a “hugger”. It has probably cost me a couple of decades of life already . . . but, then again, if I was a “hugger” and I happen to “hug” the wrong person I might not be around anyways.
I am not against “hugging”. I appreciate a good hug. There are times when I long for a hug. I really like hugging my granddaughters. No, I am not against “hugging” . . . I’m just not really comfortable with it. People who really know me know this. They tolerate it and hug me anyways . . . they know that I am not performing some awkward mating dance. They tease me about it. Shoot, I can even laugh about it. Hugging makes me uncomfortable . . . uncomfortableness creates stress . . . stress releases those pesky cortisol hormones . . . cortisol hormones create havoc on the body, thus shortening one’s life. I want to live a long life . . . maybe “hugging” is just not meant for me.
I don’t know.
My granddaughters do not seem to care one way or another how goofy we look when we hug . . . they just relish the hug (as do I). Now that might change in about ten years, but right now they just love their grandpa. There is one lady who gives me a hug every Sunday morning . . . a solid hug . . . and, surprisingly, I look forward to it every Sunday. From time to time the wife sneaks in a hug when I least expect it . . . and, it feels good to be hugged. So do the daughter from time to time . . . sneak hugs. I have noticed that I do not get as tense as I used to when I hug or get hugged. Nor do I have the urge to run like hell. I can even feel the years slowly adding onto my life. There just might be something to this research . . . “hugging” just might be good for you . . . just might make you healthier and happier. But, I don’t know . . .
Maybe I should give it a real try. They say what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger . . . I guess it is worth a shot. Need a hug? Well, be patient with me as I learn the art of hugging . . . ignore my awkward dance . . . it might not be a “hug” but there will be contact. It is the intention behind the act that matters . . . and, I do care. It has just taken me a little longer to get to the point that I can express it with a hug. All this talk about “hugging” has made me want a hug . . . I’ve got to go! There is a “hug” out there waiting to be had!