(Soz, this one is a bit delayed due to the amazing addition of an early arrival of a new baby to the MBP family!. All the more reason to hug the daddies!! Men are for life, not one month!)
As March in the UK is associated with Mother’s Day so it is with June and Father’s Day. The world however is becoming more socially aware, or you might say emotionally intelligent as there is recognition that the focus on a mother or father specifically may trigger trauma or upset for some. In understanding that one size does not fit all engenders a more open mindset and it is this open mindset that we want you to look at the men in your life. Whether related by blood or marriage or simple chosen by you, how often do you reach out and hug the men in your life?
A lot of us are pretty much socially programmed to conform to ‘traditional’ gender role norms. For women it might mean they cry more easily, are less afraid to ask for help and will seek out hugs when they need one. This, of course a very generalised statement and there is a lot more fluidity of gender and normative behaviour than there used to be. The point being made here however is that whereas women are ‘allowed’ to be emotional creatures, it is not quite so for men.
Maleness assumes being dominant, forceful and even violent. Many a time the term “man-up” is used to describe the need to have men hide their emotions. Being emotional, empathetic or sensitive is seen as a sign of weakness and doesn’t fit the stereotype.
When you consider the idea of what it means to be a man in our society, from both a social and political lens, masculinity has become a performance of behaviours that some are recognising as toxic. Unfortunately, those men who are emotionally available, enjoy connecting with people on a deeper level or who are even shy, are not congratulated but instead are seen as effeminate. This preconception of feminine energy is used to embarrass or shame these men as not being ‘hard enough’.
Consequently, the world rarely provides opportunity for men to step outside of the masculinity trope. Many are having to hide their true feelings and emotions which is damaging and can leave many in a dark and sad state of existence. How many of us give this any real thought? How many of us stop our men, whatever their relationship to you, and ask how they are doing or even offer them a hug?
Thankfully, there are vital and important spaces opening up for men to talk about their emotions and mental health. These, however, don’t always have to be especially designated if we simply reach out hugging arms to our men. Many of us will recognise and understand the burden of not being our true self, trying to fit in with society ‘norms’ and/or friends who want you to mimic their behaviours to be accepted. Knowing that we have someone to turn to for support or just a simple touch of the hand in understanding could mean so much to the men in our life.
We know the saying “actions speak louder than words”. A hug, therefore, conveys so much. A hug is a greeting, a source of comfort, a show of support and affection. Despite learnt behaviours, men are as much social creatures as women and so connecting through touch can have positive effects on their brain and body. Oxytocin – the hug hormone – releases in response to warm touch. This can help you handle stress, improve your relationships and boosts your wellbeing.
We are, of course, not just speaking to womenfolk. We want to move beyond the notion that such contact can only occur for men via a mother, wife, daughter or sister. If we are denouncing the negativity of being effeminate, then men hugging other men can go beyond fist or chest bumps and vigorous back slapping. Get in there with a man-on-man embrace that doesn’t have to result from exhibiting amazing feats of sporting prowess!
The only caveat we would raise here is that not everyone should be expected to hug if they don’t want to. Not everyone likes having their personal space encroached. Show that emotional intelligence and be respectful. There are other ways to give hugs. For example, the MindBody Therapy Centre sells amazing scents called Hug in a Bottle and Hug Me Too which convey loving hugs through smell. The idea came about for all those who were missing their loved ones who could use the room mist to conjure up memories of or convey loving and warm thoughts to family and friends alike.
Hugs, and touch in general, are something we’ve really missed out on over lockdown so when it comes to the men you care about, physical contact makes perfect sense and we at Mindbody love the thought men seem more inclined to be physically at ease with one another. That way, everyone benefits.
Go seek out your men and give them a hug and we’ll see you next time.
P.S If you want to read more about the benefits of hugging check out The Calming Book of Healing Hugs