Hugs, please!
Hugs, please!


 At 8 years old, I was moping around the house.

“Mom – I’m homesick. But I’m at HOME. How can that be?”

I can’t recall her words, but whatever she said didn’t satisfy me.

There was an aching in my heart that needed a human touch.

I think all I needed was a hug.

I don’t know why I didn’t just come out and ask her for one. Somehow I thought I had to be strong, that I’d be laughed at if I admitted I needed anything. I guess we were never a touchy-feely kind of family.

Later on, in my 20’s  – and before I had children of my own – I visited my husband’s mother while she babysat a 10 month old baby boy whose parents both worked during the day.  He looked pretty sad.

I felt bad for the little guy, so when my mother-in-law went into the kitchen, I picked him up in my arms and began cooing and playing with him and finally got a smile. What fun we were having!

As soon as she came back, though, she scolded me,

“OH! NO!  You’re not supposed to pick him up!”

Still holding him I recall saying,

“What? WHY? Does he have cooties?”

“No”  she said, “But his parents left strict instructions NOT to pick him up. They don’t want him to become needy – the kind of baby you have to pick up all the time.”

“That’s a CROCK!”, I protested.

“Yeah, but I have to follow their orders. It’s their kid.” she retorted.

Since she was ‘In Charge’, I put him down, and as he looked straight at me, his smile went away.

The poor little boy was being denied the human touch he needed.

I went home and cried for him that day.

Once in a while I think about that boy and wonder how he is now, 40 years later.

In her article, Touching Empathy, psychologist Maia Szalavitz says,

“… touch is even more vital… babies who are not held and nuzzled and hugged enough will literally stop growing and-if the situation lasts long enough, even if they are receiving proper nutrition – [may] die…”

Researchers from the Canadian Community Health Survey found that people who get hugs regularly are more likely to report better mental health.

Mickey & Minnie Hugging drawn by Ruth Elliott, 2000
Mickey & Minnie Hugging drawn by Ruth Elliott, 2000

According to JOSH RICHARDSON  there are 9 reasons hugs improve our health:

“Hugging helps the immune system, cures depression, reduces stress and induces sleep. It’s invigorating, rejuvenating and has no unpleasant side effects. It is all natural, organic, naturally sweet, no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients and 100 percent wholesome. There are no batteries to wear out, no periodic check-ups, low energy consumption, high energy yield, inflation proof, nonfattening, no monthly payments, theft-proof, nontaxable, nonpolluting and, of course, fully returnable. Hugging is practically perfect, with the only exception that it can’t recreate the wheel.”…more

According to Claudia Gold, MD, our ability for Emotional Self regulation is affected by the mother-child relationship from birth: The attunement of the mother  to her infant helps develop emotional self-regulation.

“…research has shown that healthy wiring of a baby’s brain depends on attuned responses of caregivers. These responses can consist not only of words, but also looks, touch, sound of voice, and facial expressions.”

This shows the vital need for Human Touch in infants, but how many hugs do YOU need per day?

Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said,

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

Whether that number has been proven scientifically yet or not,  a great body of scientific evidence exists that clearly shows the importance of hugs and physical contact to emotional and mental well-being.

I knew it all along.

Personally, I’ll take all the hugs that I can get!

I thought you’d appreciate these references that corroborate my own findings.

By the way – EDU DESIGNS wants to be a Great Non-Profit! We would like to earn Great Non-Profit’s 2014 Badge to display on our website. And you can help.

Please go to the Great Non-Profit website:

See what others have to say about us. Then post a few words about why EDU DESIGNS is a Great Non-Profit.

It will only take a minute, but it will mean a lot to us.

Sending an electronic hug your way,


Ruth Elliott-Hilsdon


PS – Get a free download of my Art Textbook for kids with any donation through this link!