“Tra la, it’s May, the lusty month of May…”

Here it is, May Day 2020, and the lilting song from the musical Camelot comes to mind. But tra-la lusty is hardly what I’m feeling during pandemic-driven social distance. Thankfully, phone and visual media have arrived like reinforcements to save the day… but my body is craving touch as well.

I sure could use a hug.

Hugging is an important way for me to express love, affection, reassurance and a whole lot more. Giving a hug is a sprinkle of joy; receiving is a breeze beneath my wings. Social distance dis-heartens me, literally and figuratively. During this time, I wondered, how can we hug each other for encouragement and support? The Mother of Invention whispered the answer: Feel the hug.

If you have ever experienced the power of visualization, you’ll know where I’m going with this. When we picture ourselves doing something in detail—for example, gift wrapping a present or hitting a tennis ball—the same neurons in our brain fire as if we were physically performing the act. Aha!

We can activate the hug neurons in our brains with a simple 3-5 second visualization:

  • By phone (skype, facetime, etc.)- tell the other person it’s time for a hug. This works best if it’s mutual and simultaneous. You each close your eyes and picture your arms around each other. Feel your chests in contact as you lean in. Feel his/her breath rhythm, feel his/her arms around you and yours embracing them. Feel the warmth of skin, feel the sweet pressure. Inhale with them, exhale with them. Ahhhhh. After several seconds, picture your arms unwrapping each other, sit up straight and smile. Did you feel the hug? It may take a little practice, so start with a trusted loved one with whom you already feel good hugging.
  • By email (greeting card, any written communication) – here’s what I write, but use your own words: “I’m enclosing a hug with this note. Take a few seconds to close your eyes and feel my arms lovingly and reassuringly around you. Picture me smiling as I hold you. Feel us breathing together for a breath or two, and when you’re ready, open your eyes and come back to reading. Smile. Know that I love you.”

Try it, and I hope you find as I do that we’ve bridged the gap, strengthened each other’s very cells and nourished our immune systems.

Be well and healthy, and believe that all will be well. Pay it forward. We’re all in this together.


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