Free Hugs for Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and December is upon us, I’d like to offer an idea that can help with the doldrums around the holidays. Every year around this time of year, I read or see in the news how someone a meltdown or a tolerance break and they get violent to themselves or others. I guess a lot of people have high expectations and they want things to go right, or they set themselves up for disappointment. This can be prevented if we want to. All it requires is a bit more fellowship, a bit more acknowledgment of our humanity.

The end of the year is a time of reflection and consolidation. It’s a time of considering what changes we might make for the coming year. For some, it’s a time of grief, of mourning our losses and noticing our gains and improvements. For me, I just notice that every year, I get better at handling upsets than before. I’m honing the skill of keeping peace around me.

The holidays can also be a time of celebration, and I say “can” because not everyone is celebrating the birth of a spiritual leader. Many of us seem to get lost in the consumerism of buying gifts for others, building anticipation of gifts we want and being with people we miss.

Happiness is better with others. I know this because I’ve been happy along and with others and I can see the difference. Happiness is far better shared than alone. And one way we can share happiness is with a hug. Last time I checked, hugs are still free.

Hugs are one of the most accessible expressions of affection, gratitude and happiness. Hugs are a sign of fellowship. Hugs express gratitude as in, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Hugs are a sign of happiness. And for anyone still mourning a loss, a hug can bring something else: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is an endorphin that signals bonding. It signals acceptance, love and fellowship. A 20 second hug is good for a nice lift for the next hour or two depending on your sensitivity. People tend to walk away with a smile after a hug. Hugs are for humanity.

Part of the inspiration for this article is the video linked to below.

That video is from the Free Hugs Campaign. Here is a snippet from their website:

It is nice to know that despite all these shiny things that surround us, a hug can still bring some happiness. It is nice to know that despite all of the troubles in the world, we can still find some relief in a hug. It is a testament to our humanity that something as simple as a hug can evoke a smile.

One of the things I tell my kids is, “You can always ask for a hug, no matter what.” I tell them this because for my kids, love is unconditional. My kids are not here to make me happy. They are here because my wife and I brought them into this life and now it is up to us to teach our kids the skills they need to find their own happiness. One of those skills is giving a hug.

So I always offer my kids a hug, even during an upset. I know the value of a hug. I know the meaning of a hug. My kids prove to me how important hugs are to them everyday.

Unfortunately, as we grow older, we’re expected to be mature, and not be so needy anymore. Intimacy is frowned upon at work and in public. Intimacy is not limited to being naked together, though that is what many people think it means. Intimacy is more than that.

Intimacy is me being me, and letting you see me. — Bob Earll, from the book, “I Got Tired Of Pretending”

I first read that book about 25 years ago, and I just never forgot that quote. Earll has elucidated the best definition of intimacy that I have ever seen. Hugs are a form of intimacy, too. Which brings me to my final point: A hug is about acceptance. You don’t need to wear fancy clothes for a hug. You don’t have to be rich to deserve a hug. You don’t need a fast car, a beautiful house, or a big diamond ring. When people exchange hugs, they are saying, without equivocation:

I like you just the way you are. — Fred Rogers

Most of our suffering during the holidays arises from our desire to be different than how we are now. Suffering arises when we cannot accept things the way they are now. A hug melts all of that for a few moments, and during that hug, a nice dose of oxytocin makes it a little easier to accept life the way it is.

Hugs are also a form of cooperation. We are born with cooperation baked into our genes. Once we accept who we are and where we are and who we’re with, right here, right now, then cooperation is easier. It’s kind of a virtuous circle that makes it easier to spread happiness. Hugs are a simple way to bring peace on earth, one person at a time.

Now imagine that multiplied by 7 billion.

Write on.

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.