Conversation Starters

This Woman Is Changing the World by Hugging as Many People as Possible

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Writer Lisa Mae Bunson received a startling call in 2007 from her elderly mother, who said she was depressed because she hadn’t had physical contact in ages. This lead Bunson to create the Love, Hugs & Inspiration campaign, a program to help people by giving them some good free lovin’. Similar to the Free Hugs Campaign, Brunson sits on the Santa Monica Promenade with “a sign and a stack of books, beckoning people over with a smile and all the love energy” she can muster. Homeless people, children, and tourists all come by for the free hugs, and Brunson sends them away with her book of poetry on love and intimacy.

Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Embracing people can have many health benefits including increasing your serotonin levels, strengthening the immune system and boosting self esteem, Marcus Julian Felicetti explains in his article on the subject.  And while no one can say for sure why we press our bodies up against each other, it sure feels good.

Of her project, Brunson told The Huffington Post, “People crave human touch, yet many do not get enough of it. Some are afraid of hugs, but I have learned that given the chance, many will seize the opportunity to be embraced. Those who walk away or are repulsed by the notion, I have learned, are just fearful of love.” (Or just of stranger danger, but I digress.)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with hugging or need a refresher course, WikiHow offers some advice with tips such as:

  • “Hug only when the person you want to hug extends his or her arms. If the person doesn’t look like he or she is preparing to  hug you, then you may want to back off.”
  • “Avoid hugging the person too tightly.”

And for hugs between same sexes:

  • “Girls: Close your eyes and think about how much you love your friend when hugging. Press as much as you feel like without squishing your friend. Do not clap the person you’re hugging on the shoulders. Some girls think you don’t like them if you do it that way.”
  • “Guys: Embrace strongly, and clap each other on the top of your backs. If you’re having an emotional moment, hold the hug for a brief moment and do not clap each others backs.”

As for Brunson, on Valentine’s Day she will be giving out hugs on the Arizona State University (ASU) campus with a goal to hug 10,000 people before the end of 2014. “In the end,” she says, “what I have learned most of all is that I am the one who needs the hugs most.”

[h/t Huffington Post]