Family therapist Virginia Satir says “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” As a freshman on campus this year in the midst of a global pandemic, I have been struggling to navigate the new obstacles to physical and emotional human connection. I find that getting even one hug in on a normal day is difficult, especially because of the added barriers due to the pandemic. I mean, I can’t be the only one seeing all the signs that recommend elbow taps and the hook’em horns hand sign over hugs and handshakes.
After less than two months on the UT campus, I haven’t even known anyone long enough to consider them one of my close friends, let alone long enough to get 12 hugs a day out of them. Besides, in light of our current situation it’s a real struggle to figure out everyone’s physical boundaries.
Unfortunately, especially for those of us that are introverted homebodies, human connection is essential to our existence as people. Connecting with other people has proven benefits: improving mental and physical health. This includes lower rates of depression and anxiety, increased ability to regulate emotions and greater life expectancy. In addition, it helps foster a sense of support, community and purpose.
Even if we’re not all able to meet Virginia Satir’s recommended average of eight hugs a day, I believe there are other ways to fulfill our need for human connection. It is not measured by how many friends you have, how often you go out or the amount of organizations you’re in.
You can find human connection by sharing a laugh with the person who made your morning coffee or smiling at a stranger on your daily walk to class. Human connection is all about finding meaningful moments with other people that make you feel good on the inside.
Whether it’s giving yourself a hug every morning, buying your roommate a coffee to put a smile on their face or calling your family every once and a while, the benefits that come from real human connection will never diminish.