So today is April 25th, 2018 – just another day really, no birthdays or occasions in the family- but I found myself wondering if it was a special day of celebration for others, maybe even nationally or internationally, so I decided to find out.
Well according to www.daysoftheyear.com it’s a day for the following International / National celebrations:
- Golf day
- DNA day
- Hug a Plumber day
- Administrative Professionals day
- Malaria day
- Guide Dogs day
- World Stationary day
I was intrigued to find out that in theory it is possible for anyone to choose to name a particular day, as one could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Hug a Plumber day’ might indicate, but the site does assure us that these are real events and not a joke!
Whilst the other events might be better known and perhaps seem more worthy, it was the ‘Hug a Plumber day’ that attracted me first! I first became interested in hugs after watching this You Tube video of ‘Juan Mann’ (One Man) and learning the story behind it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4
The Origins of Free Hugs
The story is of Juan Mann struggling with depression following personal trauma and moving away from family in London to live in Australia, where he felt alone and sad. One day when at a very low point, a complete stranger gave him a hug which made him feel instantly better, so in 2004 he decided to do the same for others. He was stopped by the police who said he needed public liability insurance but a petition of 10,000 signatures asking for him to be allowed to continue changed their mind.
This video has been viewed over 78 million times and seems to have had a profound effect on many people, including me and although I have been fortunate not to experience depression personally, as a nurse and therapist I have seen how it can devastate many individual’s lives. But for me it just seemed like a really lovely thing to do – to make a physical, connection with other people instead of just walking on by.
On investigating how I could start up a local group, I came into contact with the organiser of the Guerrilla Hugs movement from London – set up in 2011 – and became a satellite organiser of Guerrilla Hugs* in Staffordshire. Learning more about Positive Psychology and the benefits of hugging for health and wellbeing led onto my studying an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology in 2012.
I haven’t organised any events for a while, so seeing this has proved a timely prompt to organise further Free Hugs events and a reminder of how enjoyable it was taking part. Our first event was in Newcastle-under-Lyme on International Free Hugs day, July 2nd, 2011) and although we all felt a bit strange at first, we soon got into the swing and realised that very quickly, shoppers all around us were smiling (although a few looked at us a bit strangely!).
People wanted to know why we were doing it, were we part of a religious group, or raising money for anything to which we replied “no, just making contact with other human beings on international Free hugs day”. We had an introductory talk about platonic touch, how to approach members of the public and to respect those who didn’t want a hug.
One of the loveliest things about offering hugs was the number of young people and children who came for a hug (encouraged by parents) in this age of ‘don’t touch’ for fear of being accused of inappropriate behaviour. Of course it is super important to be aware of this potential, but to also offer our children example of what is appropriate, platonic touch and how good it can make you feel.
The Scientific Benefits of Hugs
Virginia Satir family therapist suggests that we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 for maintenance and 12 for growth and hugs that last over 20 seconds create more trust.
- Hugging makes you feel good: hugging releases the cuddle hormone oxytocin which promotes trust and social bonding. Hugs are essential to human thriving
- It’s good for the heart: lack of touch in partnerships quickens the heart rate
- Touch lowers blood pressure: skin receptors called pacinian corpuscles signal the vagus nerve to reduce blood pressure
- Soothes away fears: especially existential anxiety
- Helps adults most: especially as loneliness increases with age, hugging improves stress and physical health
- Reduces stress: by lowering cortisol levels which leads to greater calmness
- Babies who get lots of hugs are less stressed as adults
- Regular hugs build your immunity: making us less susceptible to bugs and viruses
What some of our huggers said…
“Me, my best friend and my twin had a free hug from one of your volunteers on the 2nd of July, we LOVED the free hug, it made our day, thank you”
“I so miss being held, I haven’t had a hug since my wife died”
“I am really down. I could do with a good hug”
“I really needed a hug”
“You can’t get enough hugs”
“Ooh that was a really good hug – I’m coming back for more later!”
“I suppose a date is out of the question?”
So who are you going to hug today?
Even though it’s Hug a plumber day, don’t limit your hugs to plumbers – everyone needs one! If you want to join in our next Guerrilla Hugs event in Staffordshire, get in touch!
References and footnotes
Felicetti, M. (2012). 10 Reasons Why We Need at Least 8 Hugs a Day. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5756/10-Reasons-Why-We-Need-at-Least-8-Hugs-a- Day.html
Mann, J. (2004). The Illustrated Guide to Free Hugs (free e-book) http://healthyhabitsetc.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/The-Illustrated-Guide- to-Free-Hugs.pdf
WDDTY, (2014). A Hug at Christmas Could Keep the Viruses at Bay. https://www.wddty.com/news/2014/12/a-hug-at-christmas-could-keep-the-viruses-at- bay.html
*Guerrilla Hugs was founded in 2011 in London, UK; for details see http://guerrillahugs.com/
International Free Hugs day is the first Saturday after June 30th each year.
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’