Go ahead. Its all right. Today is National Hugging Day.
I love to learn about obscure, little-known holidays. Some are pretty off the wall, like National Nothing Day (January 16) and Measure Your Feet Day (January 23). Huh? Who came up with those? And more importantly, WHY?
But some of these not-so-well-known holidays are pretty cool. Like January 21, National Hugging Day. Now there’s something to celebrate!
When I was at the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City last year, I was headed to a workshop on digital marketing but changed my mind the last minute and instead sat in on a talk on handling stress and burnout. That ended up being the most helpful workshop of my conference.
(I know this sounds completely unrelated to my topic, but hold on. I’m getting there.)
The workshop presenters began by explaining how important it is to work our way through the entire stress cycle, even if we can’t do anything about the stressor. Some stressors we can eliminate with good planning and wise choices. But if the stressor is a boss or a loved one? Walking away isn’t always a good solution, and it’s illegal to shoot them.
The speakers provided several methods for completing the stress cycle, or moving from “stressed” all the way to “safe.” These included things like physical activity (running, tennis, working out), sleep (7-9 hours every 24 hours, however your body wants it split up), hearty laughter, a big cry, and creative self-expression. (Interestingly enough, once writing becomes a job, it no longer qualifies as creative self-expression for stress-relieving purposes.)
One of the methods they talked about for completing the stress cycle was affection, things like kissing and hugging. (See? I told you I’d get there.) But a quick peck or slap on the back won’t do it. There are actually scientific studies that have determined the average number of seconds it takes to complete the stress cycle with activities involving affection. When kissing, the magic number seems to be six. (This should probably with your significant other. Otherwise, it could get really awkward. Or get you in a lot of trouble.)
For hugs, the ideal amount of time is a lot longer—20 seconds. That can seem like a really long time, especially if you’re counting it out. One thousand one, one thousand two… But the exact time isn’t as important is staying in the hug until you feel the shift.
I’ve experienced this through the years on a number of occasions. After a stressful day, I have no trouble saying, “I need a hug.” And hubby is always more than willing to oblige. At a particular point, I actually do feel a shift, almost like flipping a switch.
If this topic sounds like something you’d like to explore further, the workshop presenters, Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, have included the material in their book titled Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.
So go ahead. Give someone a hug. If you can make it 20 seconds or longer (without getting slapped), go for it. You might find some health benefits you never knew existed.