Looking to deepen your meditation practice? It turns out that embracing someone in a mindful hug might help you do just that. Hugging meditation, made famous by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, is rooted in the belief that a good hug can have transformative effects.
“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings,” Hanh writes. “Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring reconciliation, healing, understanding, and much happiness.”
Hugging is good for more than just our relationships. In fact, the scientific community has long touted its many health benefits. For one, experts say interpersonal touching decreases stress levels by slowing down our heart rate and production of the stress hormone cortisol. During cold and flu season, making time for regular hugs may keep you healthy, as they appear to boost immune function and protect against the common cold. Hugging is also thought to simultaneously calm our fears and alleviate feelings of loneliness. Remember that next time you’re feeling blue.
The best part is that our everyday interactions can double as opportunities to easily reap these benefits. Mindfulness expert Susan Piver, author of Start Here Now, says that scheduling formal hugging meditation sessions probably isn’t necessary.
“Instead, when you’re hugging someone in your everyday life, make it a meditation,” she says. “Really pay attention because it’s so warm and physical and intimate. When I hug someone, I notice that I find it enjoyable to change my focus back and forth between what it feels like to hug and what it feels like to be hugged.”