Open up your heart - and your arms! Hugging is celebratory, comforting, and calming.
To mark National Hug Day 2023, we will be taking a closer look at both the importance of human touch, and also why how we respond to physical touch can reveal a lot about our connection to others.
What is 'National Hug Day'?
Celebrated on January 21, National Hug Day has become popular simply because people like the idea of it. It was founded by Kevin Zaborney, who noticed that in between Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day, people tended to be in low spirits following the highs of the holiday season.
In the western world, studies have shown that people tend not to show their emotions in public - so National Hug Day aims to change the way people look at emotions and the importance of expressing them.
Hugging has many benefits; it helps reduce stress, boosts the immune system, improves heart health, and produces oxytocin - a brain chemical associated with happiness.
The five secret 'Love Languages'
The five love languages describe five ways that people receive and express love in a relationship. These are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, and Receiving/Giving Gifts. You can read more in The Five Love Languages We All Need to Learn.
Indeed, having an understanding of your partner's love language and crucially - letting them know yours - is a way to help you both feel loved, understood and appreciated.
What can our hugs (or our response to them) reveal?
Physical touch is just one of the five love languages, according to Dr. Gary Chapman. All five are important, but since we all give and receive love differently, it’s vital to know how you and your partner prefer to express your appreciation.
If your love language is physical touch, then that means you prefer physical expressions of love - such as hugs - over all other expressions (such as verbal compliments or gifts).
Having awareness of this can help us to help others feel more secure in a relationship, and know what may trigger them to respond negatively - especially if your needs are different.
Physical Touch may be your Love Language if:
You love being in a relationship where there is lots of cuddling, sitting on each other's laps, or putting your arms around each other randomly.
Receiving a really long, warm hug or a kiss makes you feel like your partner really cares about you.
You love giving and receiving public displays of affection.
You notice when your partner doesn't touch you in a group setting, and it may bother you.
When you're stressed, you feel instantly calmed or relaxed when your partner puts their hand on yours or rubs your shoulders.
Someone doesn't need to say "I love you" for you to feel loved - you can feel it through the way they touch, hold you or kiss you.
Indeed, one of the benefits to being in a relationship with someone whose love language is physical touch: you can express love without having to speak, without having to do the dishes or go out and buy a gift.
Hugging and physical touch are some of the easiest ways to be intimate with your partner and even though it is physical, it can create emotional intimacy, too.
The impact of awareness
You may notice that when you argue or disagree with your partner, you often move physically away from them. It’s not always easy to break the tension following an argument, but often the best way to reconnect is to close that physical distance through touch.
That's why these hidden languages can be so insightful. People tend to express affection in the way to which they themselves respond. If your partner consistently shows love through physical touch as described here, the chances are good that this is their love language.
Given the importance of communication in your relationship, the best way to discover your partner's love language is to talk about it. Explore the five love languages together and see if physical touch resonates with your partner.
National Hug Day is designed as a tool people can use to break down barriers and show signs of affection and support to each other.
The day is proof that people can come together in a display of love, even if the outside world can sometimes feel uncontrollable or depressing.
So why not pay a little more attention to the physical cues that you give, and how others might be responding to them? Establishing what your own Love Language is can be the perfect gateway to self-discovery.
The Founders of National Hug Day are keen to emphasise consensual hugging. Therefore, people celebrating the day should always ask the permission of the person they want to hug first, before embracing them. Some people might not feel comfortable with it, so it is essential to be sensitive to that. If people don’t want a physical hug, there are still ways to virtually or metaphorically embrace them with your words and deeds.
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