It’s OK not to hug

With changes to the roadmap starting today, many people are feeling anxious. The Healthier Nation Index revealed nearly half of Britons (47%) were nervous about socialising again, with 38% saying they’ll socialise less than they did pre-pandemic. This is called re-entry anxiety. For some it is the sensory overload, others social anxiety. And for some it is about the differences in setting social boundaries. Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum is here to say it’s OK not to hug.

Why do we hug?

The origin of the word offers an explanation. ‘Hog’ in Saxon and ‘hagan in Teutonic mean ‘to be tender or embrace’. So hugging is a way to show affection. It is a less formal way to greet someone than a handshake. We can experience a variety of health benefits to hugging. It helps to reduce stress, improve communication and reduce physical pain. It is an instinctive action for many, to symbolise support.

Many of us miss hugging

People have been feeling more isolated during the pandemic. This is due to remote working, reduced social options and social distancing. 65% of communication is non-verbal, and masks, remote working and social distancing reduce how much we can see someone’s non-verbal clues. In a recent survey of 200 people, hugging is in the top five things people are most looking forward to when restrictions change.

The government advice has been to be selective with who you hug. The BBC offers some advice on hugging safely.

Some people do not like hugs

There has been an increased demand for mental health services across the nation. Cornwall’s mental health charities completed a survey on Mental Heath earlier in the year. They were asked to indicate on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being coping not at all well, and 10 being coping really well, how well teams were coping with mental health. The average was 5. Although there are some health benefits to hugging, many people with anxiety do not want to hug. Some people just don’t like it.

Around 1% of the population is people with autistic spectrum conditions. Strong reactions to touch are remarkably widespread among people who have autism.

It is not just people with anxiety and autism who are feeling reticent to hug. Everyone is dealing with their feelings around the pandemic differently. This comes down to setting personal boundaries. The Cornwall VSF campaign offers universal messaging, which has been tested by Hearing Loss Cornwall’s members. It supports saying no to hugs.

You can share the campaign via your own social media channels by requesting the assets from comms@cornwallvsf.org.