Virtual Hugging

I am writing this post during the Covid-19 isolation period, when so many of us are feeling touch deprived. Whether we are home alone or  with family members or we are working where we see many people, we are not in contact with people the way we normally would be. A few days ago my cat passed and I noticed even more than I had before, how much I missed the hugs of friends.

Even in times when we are not in isolation we may be far from loved ones and miss their hugs. In recent years the health benefits of hugging have been researched and published. An article on PIH Health website,   sites many benefits of the simple hug, including: helps you feel connected; can lower stress; may help you avoid getting sick; triggers the release of oxytocin which can cause stress hormones and heart rate to drop; releases tension in the body. Another article, on the benefits of hugging, suggests ‘ a warm embrace might even help you avoid getting sick’ and sites studies which suggest this.

So if hugging contributes to health and may even boost the immune system and help prevent illness, isn’t it even more important during stressful times of a pandemic? These past few days of feeling touch deprived it occurred to me that there may be a solution to this feeling of deprivation. The solution may be in the ‘virtual hug’. I have heard many anecdotal stories of imagination being as powerful as the physical act and read quite a few studies demonstrating improved performance due to visualization of an action. Imagining something has a physiological effect. Many people have had the experience of slowing heart rate or lowering blood pressure by imagining a relaxed state or imagining being in a favourite place. Our thoughts and imagination directly affect our physiology. Therefore, imagining a hug may have a similar effect to receiving a hug.

What I propose is that every day you have a time to practise imaginary hugging. In your mind’s eye see the person you would like to hug. Engage any senses you can to make the imaginary image more ‘real’. You might smell them, hear their voice, feel the fabric of their jacket or whatever makes the image more real to you. Imagine hugging this person. Feel the hug and notice the sounds and smell of the hug, while seeing it in your imagination. My suggestion is that the best time to do this may be before going to sleep, as a way to more fully relax.

In reiki we are able to connect with people at a distance and treat them even though they are not present. In order to do this we use our ability to imagine the person. I have had many experiences of the remarkable power of this ‘imagining’ to do distant reiki. Therefore, it may be possible that this virtual hug will influence not only your own personal physiology and craving for physical affection, but perhaps also provide a similar influence on the person you are visualizing hugging.

Will you join me in this experiment of ‘virtual hugging’? It may be that through this period of social distancing we learn a great deal more about how we are connected.