A hug is a near universal form of physical intimacy in which two people put their arms around the neck, back, or waist of one another and hold each other closely. If more than two persons are involved, this is informally referred to as a group hug.
A hug, sometimes in association with a kiss, is a form of nonverbal communication. Depending on culture, context and relationship, a hug can indicate familiarity, love, affection, friendship, brotherhood or sympathy. 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 at meeting someone or seeing someone long-absent. A non-reciprocal hug may demonstrate a relational problem. A hug can range from a brief one-second squeeze, with the arms not fully around the partner, to an extended holding. The length of a hug in any situation is socially and culturally determined. In the case of lovers, and occasionally others, the hips may also be pressed together.
Unlike some other types of physical contact, a hug can be practiced publicly and privately without stigma in many countries, religions and cultures, within families, and also across age and gender lines, but is generally an indication that people are familiar with each other. Moving from a handshake (or touch-free) relationship to a hug relationship is a sign of a new friendship.
An unexpected hug can be regarded as an invasion of a person's personal space, but if it is reciprocated it is an indication that it is welcome. Some Western culture commentators advise avoiding hugs at work to prevent uncomfortable moments, especially with people who dislike hugging. Also, a person, especially a child, may caress and hug a doll or stuffed animal. Young children will also hug their parents when they feel threatened by an unfamiliar person, although this may be regarded as clinging onto rather than hugging because it demonstrates a need for protection rather than affection.
While less common, hugging may be undertaken as part of a ritual or social act in certain social groups. It is a custom in Latin cultures such as France, Spain and Latin America for male friends to hug (as well as slap each other on the back) in a joyous greeting. A similar hug, usually accompanied by a kiss on the cheek, is also becoming a custom among Western women at meeting or parting. In Portugal and Brazil, it is common, mostly among males, to finish letters and emails with Um abraço or Abraço followed by the sender's signature. Similar formulas may be used in oral communication.
In May 2009, The New York Times reported that "the hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days" in the United States. A number of schools in the United States have issued bans on hugs, which in some cases have resulted in student-led protests against these bans. In the Roman Catholic rite of the Holy Mass a hug may be substituted for a kiss or handshake during the kiss of peace ritual. Some cultures do not use hugging as a sign of affection or love, such as the Himba in Namibia. During the month of Ramadan, it is halal for Muslims to hug during daylight hours if one has self-control. However if accompanied by libidinous urges, it is haram.
Hugging has been proven to have health benefits. One study has shown that hugs increase levels of oxytocin and reduce blood pressure. A group hug has been found to be a useful tool in group therapy to cement a sense of cohesion among the participants after a session, although it may cause discomfort for group members who shy away from physical contact.
Hugging in non-humans
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hugging animals.|
Cuddling is a related form of physical intimacy in which two people hold one another with each person's arms wrapped around the other's body. Cuddling is an act usually associated with lovers and family members, though cuddling between friends is not unheard of. Similar to hugging, cuddling is a more affectionate and intimate embrace, normally done for a longer period of time (usually lasting from a few minutes to several hours). In contrast to hugging, which can often be a nonverbal greeting or parting tradition, cuddling is usually shared between two people who are lying down together or sitting somewhere in an intimate manner. Like hugging, cuddling makes the body release oxytocin, which has a variety of effects.
- Kathleen Keating (1994). The Hug Therapy Book. Hazelden PES. ISBN 1-56838-094-1.
- "A New Rule For The Workplace: 'Hug Sparingly'". NPR. 2014-01-11.
- Kershaw, Sarah (2009-05-27). "For Teenagers, Hello Means 'How About a Hug?'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-29.[dead link]
- Grant, Denise (2010-04-15). "Students pan hugging ban".
- "School Bans Hugs Over 2 Seconds". 2008-03-02.[dead link]
- "How hugs can aid women's hearts". BBC News. August 8, 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
- Albert Pesso, Movement in Psychotherapy: Psychomotor Techniques and Training (1969), p. 92-93.
- Patricia McConnell (June 4, 2002), The Other End of the Leash (1st ed.), Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0-345-44679-4
- Media related to Hugging at Wikimedia Commons