I remember the first time I saw my dad cry. It was right after his father Russ had passed. I was 17 and had just come home from school that day. As I walked through the front door, I saw my mom standing in the hallway at the bottom of our stairs with an anxious look on her face. She turned her focus up to the top of the stairs as she said, “Look, David is home!” As joined my mom, I saw my dad running down the stairs with tears in his eyes. As he got to me, he gave me a big bear hug and began to sob. 

That moment is seared in my brain. The first time I had seen my dad so vulnerable and the first time I remember consoling him instead of the other way around. The hug was powerful and lasted only a few seconds but the memory will always remind me of the power of embracing. 

Do you remember when you first heard the term Social Distancing? It was a sad moment for me. It seemed that we were never going to be able to embrace again. 

Embracing has taken quite a hit lately. 

Hugs are on the HR list of inappropriate acts since the Me-Too movement and during the Pandemic, even life threatening. Don’t misunderstand because I know how and why we got here. There is good reason to be cautious and thoughtful, but it is disappointing that all of this has tainted a powerful demonstration of affection and support. 

As humans we don’t just like connecting, we require it. Connecting on an emotional level is like oxygen and we cannot thrive in life without it. Various studies on the power of hugs have shown warm embraces (those six seconds or longer) lower blood pressure and make us less susceptible to illnesses. Hugs can induce the release of serotonin and dopamine in our brain. These neurotransmitters are affectionately known as happiness hormones in the field of positive psychology and they do wonders for our mind and body. 

So, how can we get back to hugging it out more? Here are some tips:

  1. If you are a hugger just let folks around you know you appreciate giving and receiving hugs. 
  2. When you hug, just ask for permission first.
  3. When you have been hugged thank them for the boost of happiness, they gave you. 
  4. Realize that not everyone is comfortable with hugs and respect that.
  5. Always live by the Platinum Rule – do unto others as they’d want done unto them.

My father’s embrace meant so much to me that day long ago and I am a hugger because of it. My wife Sandy and I start each day with a warm embrace and now I don’t want to resist using it with my friends and business relationships. Could we collectively create an embrace renaissance? 

The Phillie Phanatic taught me that spreading joy through hugs was what he was created for. He was a master of the hug and never saw anyone who didn’t need one.