• Dr. Matt Davis

Hugs in the Time of Coronavirus

One of the things that has been difficult about COVID-19 and social distancing is the significant decrease in hugs. I used to work with a woman who initiated hugs when she left the office for the day, and she always said that we need 8 hugs per day as a baseline. I did some rigorous research on Google and found this stat:



A lack of sufficient hugging is something that can be subtle. I know it snuck up on me. I first noticed it when some of my co-workers returned from sick leave, some of whom were confirmed positive COVID cases. My instinct when I saw them was to rush to them and give them a 'Welcome back, We missed you, Glad you're better' hug. But the

masks, social pressure, and the knowledge that they could infect me

with COVID, appropriately deterred me. I have settled for a few 'air hugs,' which is nowhere near the same. When you think about the way a hug feels-- the gentle squeeze from another's arms and body on yours, the warmth of their skin against yours, the physical closeness of a loved one's body and face that lasts for a few seconds, and the emotional reassurance that comes with them--it's easy to start missing hugs more. 



Research shows that visualization, a technique associated with guided imagery in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, increases oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) in the brain. Interestingly, our brains do not differentiate between an actual hug and a visualized hug. 


I have a friend who gives pretty intense hugs, almost too intense. Like, she squeezes you REALLY tightly, almost too tightly. It's kind of uncomfortable. But they also feel SO GOOD, and she is FAMOUS for these hugs! When you get one, it is impossible to feel like you don't matter. The hug communicates how meaningful you are to her.  


Whether it is a good hugger in your life, or a special person whose hugs you miss, I invite you to take a few moments to imagine the physical and emotional sensations you would feel from a big hug. You might be surprised with how good it feels. 



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