Today, January 21st, is National Hugging Day. Why have a day devoted to this greeting and display of affection? Isn’t this something all of us do all the time?
Well, no. Some people don’t get hugged on a regular basis, and that’s altogether too bad. There are many reasons why hugs are good for our mental and physical well-being (and you can find at least ten of those reasons on the National Hugging Day website). But allow me to tell you a story that I think will demonstrate the power of hugs and touch.
In college, I took a month-long, school-sponsored trip to Japan with about ten other students. We’d all met each other beforehand, but we had yet to become friends. Each of us was staying with a host family, and most of us were enjoying the polite hospitality they were providing us. One day, all the students were all waiting together at a train station, on our way to visit another school (the purpose of the trip was to learn about education in Japan). We began talking about how much we enjoyed being there and how exciting it was. One of us, though, brought up how they felt like something was missing, and they just couldn’t put their finger on it. We talked a bit more, and eventually, someone else identified the feeling as being too closed-off from everyone. There was no casual touch in our everyday lives, no random hugs when we saw friends. The solution was obvious at that point: group hug. So a bunch of crazy Americans all hugged each other in the middle of this crowded train station, and then proceeded to all get on a train together. In retrospect, I’m sure it looked odd, but it made us all feel so much better. We did that about once a week after that for the rest of the trip, and even ended the trip with a big swing dancing party.
So don’t underestimate the power of welcome touch! Even a brief hand on a shoulder of someone who doesn’t get a lot of human contact can make a big difference. Take today to go ahead and reach out – you’ll both benefit.