Hug therapy? Yes. Hug therapy! The hug supports us emotionally when we are children and continues to have a reassuring effect even in adulthood giving a sense of security, it teaches sharing with another person through the gesture of giving and receiving, encourages empathy and understanding, helps to trust others and strengthens the links between people.
” We need 4 hugs a day to survive.
We need eight hugs a day to keep us healthy.
We need 12 hugs a day to grow”.
This is what says Virginia Satir, psychotherapist and writer, founders in 1959 of one of the most prestigious psychotherapy schools in the United States, the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto.
What science says about hug therapy
An embrace stimulates the production in our limbic system, in the center of the brain, of OXYTOCIN, the neuro-hormone of intimacy and affectivity, providing a sense of satisfaction and belonging, which has a powerful anti-anxiety and anti-stress effect. Oxytocin, in fact, has a positive effect on stress by counteracting the effects of cortisol, another important hormone that the body produces under pressure.
Moreover the hugs stimulate the production of hemoglobin that transports oxygen to the tissues, allowing our cells to live longer.
The tree therapy, a hug with nature
The tree therapy, in the meaning we give it today, is a practice born in Japan around 1980 with the name of “shinrin-yoku” (forest bathing) and means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. But it was already recognized as a scientific method in 1927 when it was used for centuries in particular for patients with pneumonia.
Today it is not only used for treatments but it’s also considered a practice able to prevent diseases and give well-being thanks to the contact with nature.
The forest air is beneficial because it contains large quantities of negative oxygen ions, which help stimulate and harmonize the vital processes and the psychic and emotional sphere.
Hugging a tree immersing ourselves into nature relaxes us and leaves our mind free from every day tensions.
What if we can’t walk in a forest?
Remember when we used to hug our teddy bear as kids to overcome our fears? Whether it was fear of the dark before we fell asleep, whether it was anxiety of abandonment when our reference figures moved away from us, the teddy bear reassured us. Even when we are adults it continues to exercise its power in an almost unchanged way.
“Transition objects, which remind us, as adults, of the simplest moments of our childhood, are part of our essence”, explains Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play «and even if they can be eliminated or lost in adulthood, the feelings that generate leave traces throughout our lives». The effect will be even better if you can count not only on his memory but if our puppet is still with us.
The University of Amsterdam has conducted studies on the beneficial effects of an embrace from which it emerges that even embracing an inanimate object like, for example, a pillow or a stuffed animal, positively affects our well-being. Do you think it’s impossible? Not only it is possible, but there is now scientific evidence that touch, take care and maybe sleep with your favorite puppet, helps to strengthen self-esteem and to become mentally stronger in facing the life and anguish that it reserves us, but above all the fear of death.
Hugs in the world
Since 1986 there is also a National Hugging Day, on 21st January, created by the American, Kevin Zaborney.
Zaborney thought America was a society embarrassed to show her feelings in public and his intent was to help bring things around having a day devoted to public displays of affection.
There is also a web phenomenon called ‘Free hugs’, consecrated even by Wikipedia, which calls it “a spontaneous international movement, with imitators in different parts of the world”. It started in 2004 as an initiative born in Sydney, culminating later with a video uploaded to the internet that won the YouTube Video Awards 2006 in the Most inspirational section.
This trend has long been depopulated in northern Europe and has now been exported to Italy, precisely in Milan, where was recently born the first shop dedicated to the hug Therapy of stuffed animals. Inside an enchanted world made of plush, for young and old. Available to all customers is a large White Rabbit which is the mascot of the shop and acts as “Free hugs“: anyone who wants can take it, hug it and cuddle it, so to enjoy all the benefits derived from the hug therapy.