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Can you Hear me? - Virtual Hugs - Happy New Year, Happy New start, eh?

Despite Covid-19 still being with us, we’d like to think that the world has pretty much returned to normal. For the most part, we can move about freely and see our friends and family without restrictions. But what if, for some of us, that still hasn’t happened? Maybe for health reasons you feel safer limiting your trips out or geographically your friends and family are simply not where you are. At the height of Covid we all had to become experts at Face-Timing, Zoom-ing, Team-ing or Party House-ing. Electronic meetups became the norm. Up and down the country we were shouting at our screens asking if our fellow participants could see us or hear us. There are by now so many funny (read embarrassing) stories about our online exploits that someone is bound to bring out a book about it.

Well, MindBody Publishing founders Karen and Devon Burke were inspired to bring out a book. Not so much about the funny online experiences but about the wonderful benefits of ‘the hug’ and, in this context, the difficult experience of not being able to touch or hug our loved ones. The Calming Book of Healing Hugs presented tips and techniques on looking after ourselves and expressing ourselves through hugging with the ones we love. When those opportunities became restricted, Healing Hugs helped us find a way to connect through ‘Virtual Hugs’ - “Through the screens of our TV, phone, PC’s and laptops the most we could do was pretend to squeeze them virtually with a healing hug”.

The message here is about not forgetting to keep up this practice. Now that we’ve all gotten back to our busy lives commuting and shopping, we can forget how much it meant to receive virtual hugs and messages. Knowing that someone out there was thinking about us and sending love was such a boost and now that we don’t necessarily have to do that any more, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.” This quote couldn’t be more perfect! Touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. A basic warm touch calms our stress and activates a compassionate response. A simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.” If we are unable to do that, the next best thing is a daily virtual hug.

It can seem at times that there is a little too much emphasis or reliance on electronic messages and, with most things, balance is the key. Sending a virtual hug travelling through cyberspace can go a long way to putting a smile on someone’s face or make them feel seen or heard. When you can’t be with someone on their birthday, graduation or wedding day. When you can’t be there for a house move, job interview or new baby, an emoji, video or voice message can be a perfect solution or even antidote to help combat the challenges of modern living and differences in time or space. At its simplest, virtual hugs were represented with the hug { } symbol on a keyboard or XOXO for hugs and kisses. Now there are all manner of GIFs and clever memes that you can personalise to make them truly heartfelt. There is no reason to forget the benefits of virtual hugging.

Sending a virtual hug can be an ice-breaker and may serve as a springboard for a conversation to reconnect with someone. If a relationship has gone awry for whatever reason, reaching out can go a long way. Do you need to say sorry? So many of us forget this very simple step: we overlook the impact of a meaningful, heartfelt apology. Maybe we think we have said it, but never really did in a way that could be heard. Saying it and meaning it can be a critical step in sustaining a relationship long term.

Reaching out with a virtual hug is mutually beneficial. So before it all gets too busy, let us take some time to think about our relationships and spread the love and truly enjoy a Happy New Year.

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