Recently in London, we’ve had the “hugging saint” over from India.
Amma (born Sudhamani, meaning “Ambrosial Jewel”) was born into a low caste in the fishing village of Parayakadavu in the district of Kerala in 1953. She has been living a life dedicated to “unconditional love” ever since.
Considered a saint by her followers, Amma is estimated to have hugged over 25 million people through the course of her life – bestowing upon recipients a sense of inner calm, acceptance or something “just amazing” as one huggee put it.
There’s definitely a high demand for a hug from Amma, who travels the world just to show people some love. She has even been known to hug as many as 50,000 people in one day, working up to 20 hours solid.
Although regarded as a “saint”, Amma doesn’t preach any particular religion. She just believes in the positive power of a hug. And those who are hugged by her – the lonely, the sick, the devout and the simply curious often report a feeling of wellbeing and mystical uplift.
So, saints aside, what’s in the power of a hug?
Scientists have done tests on huggees and find that a hug from someone you care for releases oxytocin from the hypothalamus in the brain through the dopamine reward system.
Not only does oxytocin make you feel good, it lowers levels of stress hormones, reduces blood pressure, improves mood, increases pain tolerance and might even speed the healing of wounds.
Even better, higher levels of oxytocin in the blood correspond to couples reporting more positive relationships. And the great news is, the more warm hugs you receive, the more oxytocin you produce.
So here’s your challenge for the weekend. Give someone you love a hug. Show them you care.
It might be just what they were waiting for!
And a big hug from me, too!