#MentalHealthMondays: Why It’s Important to Hug Your Fucking Friends

Author: Ryan Brown, URMND Founder

I love embracing my friends in the most platonic way. The instant connection of physical touch with someone that you care about and respect is something that cannot replicated with just saying hello or a handshake. Physical touch isn’t even one of my top love languages, but I believe it is absolutely critical when it comes to connecting with someone romantically or not. There are germaphobes out there who would disagree, but when it comes to my personal experiences, the hug is underrated and undefeated.

If you have ever seen my good friend Juice and I together in any type of environment. We embrace each other like we are long lost siblings reunited after years of minimal conversation.

It’s our thing. We are family.

Then it always leads to food, shots of whiskey at the bar and conversations that would make the typical person uncomfortable.

“Do you feel like women would be easier to deal with if men just said they only had interest in sleeping with them?” I asked. A question fresh from a roundtable I moderated.

My good friend and newly minted business partner took a bite of his burger and took about 3 ½ seconds to respond.

“No. Absolutely not,” he said.

I directed the question to the two bartenders and server. All three were women.

“For the most part women are crazy and do not want the truth,” the bartender said as she poured more shots. “They just want what sounds good to them.”

The conversations are always candid, unforced and filled with great insight. The night usually ends with another grizzly-style bear hug and we go our separate ways.

According to 2018 research, hugging has been proven to be extremely helpful in numerous ways. In one study of twenty heterosexual couples, men were given unpleasant electric shocks. During the shocks, each woman held the arm of her partner. Researchers found that the parts of each woman’s brain associated with stress showed reduced activity while those parts associated with the rewards of maternal behavior showed more activity. When we hug someone to comfort them, these parts of our brain may show a similar response.

In a study of over 400 adults, researchers found that hugging may reduce the chance a person will get sick. The participants with a greater support system were less likely to get sick. And those with the greater support system who did get sick had less severe symptoms than those with little or no support system.

When it comes to hyping your friends, being there for them or making sure their well-being and feelings are acknowledged, embracing them can be a key component. No, not everyone likes to be touched, but that is when knowing your friends and what makes them comfortable and safe is incredibly important. We should all strive to understand what our families, friends and even acquaintances and co-workers need from us in order to be better off and be positive members of a society that is sometimes fundamentally flawed.

The mental health component of hugging someone you care about has proven to be important. Scientists have found that touch can reduce anxiety in people with low self-esteem. Touch can also keep people from isolating themselves when reminded of their mortality. They found that even touching an inanimate object — in this case a teddy bear — helped reduce people’s fears about their existence.

So as we continue to navigate this month of love, connectedness and even pain for some, it is ideal that we take the time to not only get to know our friends and family on a deeper level, but also make sure you understand and take into account what they need from us whether it be a word of encouragement, acknowledgement or maybe the biggest hug that you can possibly give them.


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