Opinion: Can I Get a Hug?

Jun 21, 2021

To the Editor: 

Covid-19 ravaged our world leaving lasting effects on every aspect of human society. Without minimizing any impacts of covid-19, I think restrictions on “human touch” have the most adverse effects on every one of us. 

Many parents and grandparents have not hugged their children or grandchildren for about a year now.

Humans are wired to need a warm human touch for psychological wellbeing and social connection. Depriving people of this natural form of human connection has significant adverse effects.

Studies have shown that a warm touch stimulates the vagus nerves and triggers release of oxytocin, referred to as “love hormone,” which is needed for social connections. Also, a gentle handshake or a warm hug or relaxation massage can reduce anxiety and stress, restore trust, and contribute to overall health. 

Holding the hand of the dying or offering a hug (asking first to ensure the individual is comfortable with it) to someone grieving or going through a tough time is remarkably effective. 

Restrictions on physical contact affected everyone. We have seen elevated stress, anxiety, aggression, and pent-up anger in people.

So, as we cautiously return to handshakes, hugs, and other natural forms of human connections, we may see a significant improvement in people’s moods and overall mental health. 

People should be ready to break from all social media forms and pursue our human and social connection in its organic forms. No virtual hugs! 

So, it is not just okay to ask for a hug, but we should learn to offer hugs for, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “it is in giving that we receive.”

Rev. Rowland Onuegbu, SDV (Ph.D.)