Well, having been asked to write something for this day, I was a little, what or who can I write about for this – it’s a big topic! So, I turned my thoughts to consider the women I know around me, who really do inspire me, and there were several who came to mind – women who work tirelessly in their areas of influence, to make things better for other people. Being of the age I am, many of them are doing so, whilst juggling children, home tasks, elderly relatives, grandchildren and menopause all at the same time. Quite a tall order by anyone’s standards I feel! So where would I start with this task? Well, thankfully, this year’s theme gave me the perfect focus, and one all of us can do, regardless of our gender, status or circumstances – Embrace equity.
Embrace – it’s a lovely word which brings to mind gentleness, and the physical act of holding someone close, but have you ever really taken a moment to consider the importance of such a simple act?
an act of putting your arms around somebody as a sign of love or friendship OR the act of accepting an idea, a proposal, a set of beliefs, etc, especially when it is done with enthusiasm
As humans, we naturally express a range of behaviours to feel well, nurtured and to avoid tension. We can seek this sense of peace several ways, some healthy and others in not so healthy ways. As is often the case, our natural bodies, can and do provide a solution – if we seek it. Through sensory stimulation, we can access a soothing mechanism, which is scientifically proven to be good for our health – this can be induced from something incredibly simple, the common garden Hug or embrace.
Studies have shown that the brain releases Oxytocin, in response to sensory stimuli, including stroking, warmth, and light pressure of the skin, in turn increasing well-being. The beauty of a hug is that it is shown to reduce anxiety, and blood pressure and helps us to relax, balancing out stress hormones. A hug can even help with the effects of alcohol withdrawal!
I don’t know about you, and whether you’ve ever thought about it, but I know I am a natural hugger, and sometimes this is well received, and other times, not so well received, as the case may be. Being really involved with a charity offering employment to those marginalised in our community due to addiction, I see firsthand the devastating effects social and physical isolation can have on a person, as the cycle of feeling disconnected continues. Attending a weekly Faith group, where we’re from all walks of life, including inmates, probationers, probation officers, those with addiction, mums, grandparents, you name it, we are a mixed bunch, and we all make it our business to physically embrace each other as a welcome and greeting. Don’t get me wrong, some of us are the ones who initiate the hug, and others receive, at times uncomfortably so, (especially when new to the group) but it is unspoken, and acknowledged that it’s what we do, it’s who we are, and the positive effects are enormous.
We’ve two amazing women who attend, who are in their late 70’s, early 80’s and both who could go weeks or months without physical touch in their lives, in the same way those who are living alone can. We’re designed for connection, being present with one another and soothing physical touch. A simple hug is medicine for our souls, providing a way to well-being and it costs nothing! It can be the best way to let someone know that they matter and that they do have worth.
“And thx for the hug the other day…don’t get many of those.”
“Thank you for everything you do for me, the hugs, and for making me realise I must matter a bit…”
A friend of mine, who had worked with us at Choc Affair, had spent many years battling with his addiction. When covid struck, he was living on his own, and his well-being suffered terribly. I’d gone with two friends to visit him, at the time when the rule was to remain 2 metres apart, and so we sat outside of his flat, while he sat in the doorway in a terrible state, heavily under the influence of substances. We talked, cried and sat together and at one point he said I just want a hug. Somewhere, in the very depth of his being, was the subconscious knowing that he craved nurturing, physical touch – in spite of the dulling effect of the substances, he knew what he needed. I didn’t know then, what I now know about the power of an embrace for the well-being of our souls, so sadly, and really regretfully, I kept to the rules and didn’t hug him – he died later that same week.
His and another’s death due to substance misuse, inspired us to start up the employment part of our charity, creating positive human connections through employment, for those living on the fringes. My personal learning which came from such a sad time was to never miss the opportunity of embracing someone, with a good simple hug.
So, regardless of gender, status or International days, it’s worth remembering, that just like the amazing women you and I know, who continue to influence so many lives, please know, that we’ve all got the same ability – to do something positive, every day, for others, and it can start with an embrace.
Here’s to all those amazing women in your life.