January 21, 2020

Hugs are important, even as an element of therapy

The idea of a National Hugging Day was started in the USA. It was to encourage others to hug everyone; friends, family or strangers. The benefits of hugging or being hugged have been documented to actually help both our physical and mental wellbeing. Studies have been undertaken which prove hugging lowers blood pressure, releases ‘happy’ hormones called oxytocin and decreases ‘stress’ hormones called cortisol. I hugged my five year old this morning and asked him how he felt; he gave a big smile and said “happy” which says it all.

Hugs say so many things; well done, thank you, congratulations, I’m sorry, you can do it, I love you, you are loved. We hug in times of joy and sorrow. Although we shouldn’t need a national day, it is good excuse to reflect and give hugs where they are due.

So why draw attention to this day? I think it is because it is a simple but meaningful way to support the many caregivers who provide the care and therapy to people on a daily basis. In the context of my work, many of my clients have significant care needs having suffered brain injury or other significant physical disability. I think a hug is especially important for those caregivers who are quite often the ones providing the hugs themselves but not necessarily getting a response in return. Hug them for all that they do freely and willingly for their loved ones.

Also looking at it from another point of view, I see from my clients who have suffered a life changing event such a stroke or who have sustained a brain injury, that huge amounts of time and effort are spent on getting the body and mind back to where it was prior to injury or illness. That takes hard work and dedication and the outcomes that can be achieved with appropriate treatment can be incredible.

It is therefore good to remember that a well-timed hug can just provide that wealth of support in one simple human gesture. It is a recognition of what has been achieved and it may also be the only non-task-specific physical contact some people may have. To be hugged, not just manoeuvred or manhandled, can only be a good thing.

So on National Hug Day, have a think about who may benefit from that meaningful, empowering hug. Offer a hug to the caregivers and helpers, the ones that do the daily work and you’ll both feel the benefit.

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