All About Hugs

by | Mar 1, 2024

“Bear with me” on this….

Gimme a hug! A phrase and gesture that encompasses a wide variety of denotations and connotations. By definition, hug seems to connote good feelings. Its etymology comes from a Swedish word, hugga, meaning to console. Words frequently used to define hug are embrace, enfold, affection, cherish, close, comfort and console. It is described as a natural instinct or response to feelings of compassion and need.

Scientific research supports the theory that stimulation by touch is an absolute necessity for human existence. Touch is recognized as a therapeutic tool for healing. Touch is used to help relieve pain and anxiety, and to bolster the will to live. Various experiments have shown that touch can: make us feel better about ourselves; have a positive effect on a child’s language development and IQ. Clearly, then, touching can cause measurable changes in the toucher and the touched.

There are many forms of touching, but our focus here is on hugging as a particularly special form that promotes health and healing. A certain first grade Sunday School teacher I worked with hugged each child before they left class. She told me it was more for her benefit than the students’ because she received enough unconditional love from those hugs to last her a whole week. The following short poem by Clint Weygand expresses what I imagine that first grade teacher must have felt in those hugs:

I want a world where people

are respected for the ease and

warmth of their melting…

rather than the strength of their walls.

In this special form of touch called hugging there are some specific techniques. The first and most commonly known is the Bear hug, named for the animal family Ursidae, which seems to have mastered the art. In the Bear hug one hugger is usually larger than the other but this is not a requirement. The larger hugger stands straight or slightly curved over the smaller one, arms wrapped firmly around the other’s shoulders. The smaller hugger stands straight with head against the larger hugger’s shoulders or chest, arms also wrapped firmly around whatever area they may be reaching. Bear hugs are common with parents and offspring, or with friends who want to say, wordlessly, “I’m your friend. You can count on me.” Grandparents are especially good for Bear hugs. I remember sharing Bear hugs with my grandfather who was six feet tall and with my grandmother who was four feet eleven inches tall. Grandpa’s hugs had a firm secure feeling while Grandma’s were soft and reassuring.

The next two types of hugs seem closely related because they are dependent on the number of people involved in the hug. The first is the Sandwich hug. As a parent, I have experienced many of these, as they often involve parents and children. The child in the middle of my Sandwich hugs have been of various ages. We even have had Sandwich hugs with multiple fillings (more than one child). Dad is always the bottom piece of bread, mom the top and the littlest child gets to be the lightest ingredient, the lettuce. These are great fun! Whoever is in the middle of a Sandwich hug gets a double dose of comfort and support. The Group hug is associated more with friends and family. I have shared Group hugs with many different types of groups, but one I recall was with co-workers during an extremely busy time and we needed to know that each of us supported the others. This simple Group hug became a powerful emotional release and when we parted we had a renewed sense of unity and belonging.

A more casual, playful hug is the Side-to-Side hug. These are experienced by acquaintances who are not sure of each other’s hugging rules or don’t want to seem overly affectionate. I have seen this type of hug common with teammates to show camaraderie or cooperativeness. The Back-to-Front hug is often experienced at the kitchen sink and expresses an “I’ll back you up” sort of attitude.  Hopefully with the hugger reaching for the dish towel and drying the dishes.

The most romantic of all the hugs is the Heart-to-Heart or Heart Centered hug, sometimes considered to be the highest form of hugging. This type of hug begins with direct eye contact, arms wrapped around shoulders or back, and there is full body contact. Compassion and understanding then flow from heart to heart. This is where pure unconditional love is found. An example of this type of hug is often seen at wedding receptions as the young couple dances their first dance, shutting out all distractions and focusing only on each other. The dance becomes a Heart Centered hug, full of lingering, caring, and tenderness, genuine and supportive.

A person who supports and promotes hugging is considered to be a Hug Therapist. They are open to the child within, that needs love and support, and is willing to reach out and share those needs with others. 

Hugging is healthy. It helps the body’s immune system, it keeps you healthier, it cures depression, it reduces stress, it induces sleep, it’s invigorating, it’s rejuvenating, it has no unpleasant side effects, and hugging is nothing less than a miracle drug. Hugging is all-natural. It is organic, naturally sweet, no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients and 100% wholesome.

Hugging is practically perfect. There are no movable parts, no batteries to wear out, no periodic check-ups, non-fattening, no monthly payments, no insurance requirements, non-taxable, and non-polluting. And of course, it is fully refundable and refillable. 

So hug someone today.

More on the health benefits of hugs….


Hug A Tree

Under the Kukui Tree…The kukui tree in my backyard has been one of the main sources of enlightenment for this journey of Alaka’i Associates. It began as a sapling carried down from the Koolau and given to us by a friend. It sat in its pot for several years, patiently waiting for us to tend to it. Every time we happened to notice it, it would have one or two little green leaves to tell us it was hanging on. Then, as it happens, we had cut down an old coconut tree and had the roots mulched and thought that might be a good place to try to plant our kukui tree. It was a perfect spot, as the tree began to grow rapidly, and within just a couple of years was big enough to provide shade and became a perfect place for meditation, laying on a lauhala mat Under the Kukui Tree.

We were thrilled when it started to bloom and bear fruit, and with some special mana from dear family pets resting there, it has not stopped blooming and fruiting since. As the spring season lends to new growth, I invite you to find a tree to sit under and take yourself through this meditation (click on link below):

Be a Tree 

You can also experience the healing benefits of “hugging” trees through this special Forest Bathing event on Oahu.


Activate Your Brain

Research is fairly conclusive that there are foods that boost brain power and help promote a healthy mental state and focus. Here are a few ways that good nutrition activates your brain.

First, let’s talk about Nootropics, these are products designed to support cognitive function, memory, creativity, executive functions and even motivation. They come in a wide variety of forms from drinks, to OTC/prescription drugs, to foods, and supplements. In fact, millions of people take a very basic Nootropic every day – Caffeine! Other simple Nootropics that are often overlooked are L-Theanine, Creatine, and Ginseng. 

Here are some drinks that contain some extra brain boosters.

  • Coffee : Nothing new, but a good source of caffeine without all the added sugars, carbs, fats, calories, added dyes or sweeteners.
  • Tea: Many teas are packed full of Ginseng and Oolong – both are in the same camp as caffeine and help keep you alert, awake, and focused.
  • Soy Products: Soybeans have a very specific group of antioxidants known as polyphenols. This includes not just the bean itself, but byproducts like Soy Milk and even Tofu.
  • *Here’s a healthier option suitable for all ages:

Foods high in Omega Fatty Acids are great for the brain. We can add to that list: foods high in Antioxidants, Vitamin E and K, Flavonoids, and Proteins are all helpful in enhancing memory and concentration, and honing in on mental clarity. Here’s a few:

  • Oily Fish
    • Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Herring and Sardines are extremely helpful fatty fish, and not just their oils either. The meat and skin of fish are rich in proteins as well as checking multiple brain food boxes.
  • Dark Chocolate (it’s okay, you can give a little cheer!)
    • Cacao is heavily rich with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 review, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning.
  • Berries
    • Flavonoids, also the plant pigment responsible for giving berries their brilliant hues, help sustain healthy memory functions in the brain, research shows. The wider the variety, the better the health benefits.
  • Nuts, Seeds, and Whole Grains
    • All are wildly rich in Vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. As we age, our brain is exposed to many forms of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health during the regular brain aging process. Nuts and Seeds also are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids – another healthy brain booster.
  • Avocados and Eggs
    • Abundant with B Vitamins and Unsaturated Fat, both of these options are great snacks and pair well at breakfast!
  • Leafy Greens
    • Kale, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests these plant-based foods help support healthy cognitive function.

Remember that the further you are from processed foods and ingredients the better. You are what you eat, so eat smart – don’t just eat for your stomach anymore, eat for your brain! 

Note: Always consult a doctor or physician before altering diet or making severe changes in your daily dietary or physical routines.


More Alaka’i Lessons can be found in my book, Under A Full Moon and a Guiding Star. Get your copy today and share with me what impacted you the most.