Just Give It A Little Hug

After selecting some new towels, my husband and I were standing in line at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Our turn to check out came, our order was rung up, and my husband inserted his credit card for payment. The long narrow card reader rejected his card three times. This had never happened before. The woman cashiering asked for his card while she described how fussy this reader was. Sometimes a speck of dust would set it off so she carefully wiped Curt’s card and handed it back to him. Then she cupped one hand around the top of the card reader and said, “Sometimes we need to just give it a little hug. Now try your card again.” This time the card was read and the transaction was completed.

Her phrase, “just give it a little hug” and the positive attitude that went with it stayed with me, and it became the focus of our conversation driving home. Hugging people is one of my favorite things to do, but hugging an inanimate object as a way of asking for its cooperation never occurred to me. The cashier’s phrase made me wonder if that wouldn’t be a good problem-solving skill to use, whatever the issue might be. What if I spent more time embracing my challenges instead of complaining – would it make a difference?

My sister Paula and I are both computer-challenged. Computer logic is so far from our logic that problem-solving produces high levels of stress, colorful language, and the desire to throw the computer into the nearest trash container. One day Paula, after verbally abusing her computer, reached the throwing point and called a computer technician to her house. The young man arrived and the first thing he did was talk to the machine, telling it that it would feel better soon. Then he patted it, and began to softly sing to it while he worked, using only positive words. In short order her computer was running smoothly again. Paula realized her negative attitude was part of the problem. We’re both working on embracing our challenges and improving our language and attitude with ever-changing technology. Who needs more stress?

Physical hugs are more than just pleasurable, and years of research supports this. When we hold someone in our arms, we create a bond that leads to stress release and muscle relaxation. Hugs increase dopamine and serotonin levels, so they are an instant mood-booster. Since hugs elevate mood, they also help relieve depression. Studies show that people who hug frequently have stronger immune systems than those with fewer hugs. Hugs can even help reduce pain because endorphins, which help block pain pathways to the brain, are released. This is why massage feels so good – it’s an all-over body hug!

Sometimes hugs work when words fail. Our feelings are exchanged through touch, so empathy, understanding, and love are received through the release of oxytocin, which is sometimes called the love hormone. Hugs tell us we are not alone, and this is why there are hugs available to anyone who comes to a Friends After Diagnosis meeting. Hugs can help slow a racing heart, which is what I get when I have to speak in public, so I now know what to do before speaking.

Whether it’s a precious person or an inanimate object, we can change the atmosphere around what is happening with a kind attitude and gentle hug. Embracing challenges instead of complaining does make a difference. Next time we’re challenged, let’s just “give it a little hug.” And the next time we meet, let’s share a hug and a hug story.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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