I will start with a disclaimer that I came from a family of ‘huggers’ described aptly. For me, a hug is a spontaneous, authenticate and intimate feel in the non-sexual sense. When we are excited, happy, sad or trying to be comfortable, we hug others. Hugging seems universally comforting. The 19th-century hugs were used as an image depicting the ships hugging the shore, boxers hugging the ropes of the rings, and complacent hugs between people with knowledge of their own virtues.
Situational hug: Daring
Women could hug each other at the parties, but hugging was too intimate for men except in exotic situations. Sometimes it is considered very personal, one of the news reporter suspectedly penned the daringly intimate gesture of the lady in the park saying: ‘I have hugging enough at home.’
Friendly hug: Salutation
Today, we have embraced a complete change with Ministers hugging and shaking hands. It is the salutation for a more intimate age. When we easily use first names and end the emails with xoxo- literally hugs and kisses and then sticking to handshakes, it adds to the happiness.
Scientific hug: Happy hormones
Principally we are social creatures and the need of this human contact continues in childhood and adulthood. Scientific results revealed the release of oxytocin and it enhances the ‘cuddle hormone’ fostering the bonding. Happy hormones are released that reduces stress.
Fuzzy hug: Interaction
It is a natural behaviour amongst the animal kingdom too sharing the moment of closeness. I really enjoy the feeling of seeing people whom I am fond of like other ways to get warm and fuzzies. So is the loving bond shared by contact with animals with elderly or sick people. Maintaining social interactions and connections where a direct touch can help.
Conditional hug: Appropriate
Some criticise for not hugging enough as being uncomfortable with there so-called cold corporate culture or having boundary issues of not liking others inside their bubble. There may be religious precepts. Decisions to be or not be hugged are individualised just like appropriating healthcare.
Covid time greetings are no longer by handshakes, hugs or kisses on the cheek but an ‘elbow bump’ is the preferred pandemic greeting. In a few countries, this is discouraged, the irony is we probably need a hug more in 2020 than ever before.
On balance, I think hugs do far more good than harm. I try to be judicious and not always assume that everyone wants a hug and maybe ask before swooping in. And if one doesn’t like hugging, maybe proclaiming it with a button is not a bad idea. It will at least get people thinking. With this touch-depriving time, I wish I see relatives, friends, family, patients at the hospitals; office staff hugs each other as this time is all over unless one is being forced in celibacy. Once this is over, some may not wait to ham on their friends. We’ll all need a hug. Happy National Hugging Day, an event to embrace love to near and dear ones.
Jashan Jot Kaur is a researcher at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.