Encounter

Loneliness

According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated.

What is the effect of hugging on our health and quality of life?

Sometimes, the best things in life really are free. What’s a good example of this? Hugging! Wrapping your arms around another person or having them do the same for you feels great. It makes you feel secure and loved. Hugging someone you care about can have positive effects on your health, happiness, and quality of life too, lasting long after a short embrace. We share the benefits of hugging it out and why we all should be doing more cuddling!

Hugging reduces loneliness; Hugging improves mental well-being, Hugging makes us happier

We know that as we grow older, the possibility of loneliness becomes a genuine concern and possibility. Did you know that a shocking 3.9 million older people say that television is their main form of company? There are many ways to combat loneliness, but regular hugging is definitely a good start! Human interaction is crucial to our happiness and well-being, with physical contact making us feel secure while also reducing our fears and worries.

In addition to reducing loneliness, regular hugging can also promote healthier mental well-being. For example, dropping everything for a long, warming hug encourages us to live in the present moment. In this sense, they have a similar effect to mediation and laughter. Plus, we have been hugging for our entire lives – the cuddles experienced as a child taught us that we are loved. So, even as adults, enjoying regular hugs can promote increased self-worth and self-esteem.

Finally, hugging has also been linked to the hormone ‘oxytocin’. This can sometimes be called the ‘cuddle chemical’ or ‘love hormone’! It’s released when we hug someone we care about, reducing not only our stress levels but also supporting the important social bonding process. Some attribute this hormone to the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we embrace it. Hugging also releases serotonin and endorphins which cause pleasure and reduce feelings of sadness. So, it’s evident that hugging has a range of benefits on our physical and mental well-being. A popular saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, sums up the importance of enjoying regular hugs: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth”. This is the perfect excuse for getting as many hugs as you possibly can, every day!

But how does it feel when we hug an object like pillows?

It might seem strange to hug a pillow, but the act of hugging is incredibly comforting, making you feel stable and safe at the moment, even when you’re combatting a stressful environment. When you properly hold you're something made with the pillow, your arms embrace it like a child holding their favorite teddy bear.

In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce the worry of mortality. The studies found that hugging -- even if it was just an inanimate object like a teddy bear -- helps soothe individuals' existential fears. "Even fleeting and seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch may help people to deal more effectively with existential concern," lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study. "Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance."

These days with COVID

While social isolation and loneliness were prevalent in the population prior to COVID-19, efforts to reduce the virus’s spread via stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and social distancing recommendations have exacerbated an already serious problem. With the exception of “essential workers,” the pandemic has meant limiting physical proximity to those with whom one lives. For the 28 percent of Americans who live alone, this has meant little to no human contact for months. Regardless of living situation, interactions with anyone outside the home have been severely limited for everyone. Preliminary surveys suggest that within the first month of COVID-19, loneliness increased by 20 to 30 percent, and emotional distress tripled.

What is ENCOUNTER?

As a social species, humans rely on a safe, secure social surround to survive and thrive. Perceptions of social isolation, or loneliness, increase vigilance for threat and heighten feelings of vulnerability while also raising the desire to reconnect.

How often do you feel lonely? If you’d say that you experience loneliness sometimes or even always, you are not alone. According to a new survey of 20,000 Americans, loneliness is at epidemic proportions.

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Encounter is an experimental project which puts humans to the test of loneliness. It is a stimulus for people to think about it loneliness and face it the way they want. The emotion that these days, despite the Coronavirus, is more sensitive. The hugging became weak in everyday life, from both physical and spiritual needs. This project provides a position to embrace. You can sit on a chair and hug the structure. A garment covers the back of the chair with magnets under the sleeves.

You can experience the feeling of being hugged by bringing the sleeves closer.

If you are interested in making it, please download:

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Prof. Dennis P. Paul

Hochschule für Künste Bremen

2021