As much as I wanted to buck tradition and skip making resolutions for 2022, I have officially made one.
Yes, I guess that does mean I have already broken my original resolution to not make resolutions, because resolutions are usually broken by February, anyway.
For the New Year, my big life goal is to be more loving – to everyone, even challenging people – especially challenging people.
I have always been a hugger. Ever notice huggers like to announce that they are, in fact, huggers? In my case, it has never been about pride, but more a way of warning people in the immediate vicinity that a hug could be forthcoming. It has always worked well, because people who do not want or like to be touched will (often very dramatically) let a hugger know that it better not happen.
Some huggers are hurt by the rejection; I have always appreciated someone letting me know they are not comfortable with hugging. It’s about respecting boundaries.
The truth is, there are many people I have not wanted to hug.
I do not wander around hugging random strangers, either. I guess that is not entirely true, because during the days when people camped out in public places holding “free hugs” signs, I did hug those strangers.
The pandemic has also hindered my hugging. It is impossible to simultaneously hug and practice social distancing.
While those who detest the affection breathe a sigh of relief, huggers everywhere are panicked, wondering, “How can you hug without hugging?”
I think the answer to that question starts with understanding why huggers hug in the first place. According to Wikipedia (yeah, I Googled it) “A hug can indicate support, comfort and consolation, particularly where words are insufficient. A hug usually demonstrates affection and emotional warmth, sometimes arising from joy or happiness when reunited with someone or seeing someone absent after a long time.”
Assuming that is a legitimate explanation – and it seems pretty spot-on – we hug to express love.
So, how do I offer support, comfort, consolation, or show warmth or joy?
I am going to go out on a limb here and say I can mentally hug people by literally telling them I am there for them or care about them. I can also do something as simple as listen intently without interrupting, or ask someone how I can help them or what they need.
The best thing about a mental hug is that the risk of crossing any personal boundaries the huggee might have is significantly lower. You can give someone a mental hug without having their consent, without them even knowing, for that matter.
You may wonder what the point in that could possibly be.
Mentally hugging someone may not change them, but it could help you. After all, studies show that physical hugs can reduce stress, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and decrease depression.
You may not get those same benefits from a mental hug, but I can just about promise you that hugging someone in your mind will not hurt you.