Feel Skin-Tastic! On the Importance of Hugs and How Good We Are at Avoiding Them

The very receptors that are sending signals to our brain subconsciously tell us whether we are wearing shoes or whether that hand is really pleasant to touch, or 'That skin is so soft, it brought back fond memories' or even as simple as 'He feels safe'.

There is just not enough literature on the importance of skin contact and hugs. Not enough books, articles, nor press. I spent a solid one hour in my favourite branch of Waterstones and I could find nothing.

I mean we're talking about an opportunity to make a skin to skin contact and immediately exchange at least 5 types of information that the sensory receptors all over the skin can perceive:

  • Pain
  • 2 types of temperature: hot or cold type
  • Pressure
  • Touch

The very receptors that are sending signals to our brain subconsciously tell us whether we are wearing shoes or whether that hand is really pleasant to touch, or 'That skin is so soft, it brought back fond memories' or even as simple as 'He feels safe'.

This may sound silly to you, but every time my partner is going through his work-related stresses he sends me a text 'I need a hug'. And every time I go through yet another work crisis (I really should learn when to say 'NO'), I ask for one of his biggest and strongest hugs ever, the very famous bear-style hug. And it makes me feel safe, it makes me feel that no matter how stressful the day was, I am back "HOME".

The Image: http://myaesthetica.blogspot.co.uk

The amount of clients seeing me that now insist on my hugs is increasing (sadly I am only brave enough to supply female clients with them), because less and less people are feeling comfortable to enjoy them let alone give them. A simple handshake that often leaves most of us with an unpleasant sensation, hands are too wet, the handshake is too strong or too weak; that's the latest form of skin contact that's still acceptable.

Bizarrely, books and books are written on business management and manipulation of people where numerous examples are provided on why and how to touch people, the ones that you want to do something for you.

But what about the people who are with you not because they need something from you; and you are with them, not because you need something from them? And I'm not talking about children, because that's considered 'good and normal' to hug your children.

I'm referring to the time when we are adults, the time, when we are already taught and taught yet again, why we shouldn't touch a stranger (virus, dirt, sexual harassment to name but a few). Or how we shouldn't hug each other in public and how affection should be kept behind the closed doors. The strange thing is that after years and years of cultivating such norms, the minute we step into the role of respectable adulthood (for arguments sake let's say older than 25), we are so programmed with what we shouldn't do, we forget to hug. We stop touching our partners, even those we were once so affectionate with. We stop giving bear hugs to our close friends because we don't want to send wrong signals or else... And this is especially true in the UK, where emotions and displays of affection are frowned upon.

And then one day we hug our partner and... we hug them as short and as insignificant as the stranger we are told to have as brief an encounter as possible. All the opportunity to transfer your feelings and non-verbal cues that can be given via pressure, touch or else... go out of the window. The connection goes undeveloped and slowly goes into the black hole.

The Image: http://moniiblog15.blogspot.co.uk

Recently, to support a group of my clients who were challenging themselves with new experiences to break their 9-5 routine stress levels, I agreed to join them for a dinner at the famous Dans Le Noir. Where the dining experience is in complete darkness. They walked us in, by each of us holding on to each other. And the first thing that we did, without even realising it (and in absolute blackness by the way), once seated, we started trying to find each other by touch, we all felt slightly uncomfortable about that. I mean, how do you know how you should touch a person you are not really close to. In the end one of us burst out with nervous laughter and said "Ok, let's just accept that we need to touch each other for reassurance, so let's just get on with it." It was beautiful. It was building a connection with each other without words, but through the most genuine form (hands can't lie! I promise you) hand to hand touches. At the end, we became closer than all of my sessions did for them together.

I understand that many want a scientific background behind the need in hugs. If you do, just Google "Oxytocin" and you'll get plenty. I wanted to add the psychological angle of hugs. Because we stop treating hugs and touch as another form of communicating: safely and without words.

Next time you see someone you like and you want to communicate with them without words and show them how you really feel, ask their permission; and if they agree - go ahead and give them a hug, a slow and gentle hug as though you are communicating your feelings. You'll make their day!*

Someone once said: Hugs are the universal medicine. They are also free I might add. So why not treat each other to a free hug, and give yourselves that Skin-Tastic feeling! ☺

* If you are a newbie to hugs, please hug your relatives first. Start with your partner if possible, and perhaps even stick to just hugging your partner, till you both find it comfortable and adorable, then explore hugging your friends. If it helps, say "Olga told us about the hugging needs, please help us to achieve them" ☺

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