“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth,” wrote the influential family therapist Virginia Satir. It’s a tall order–that many hugs–but the science backs up Satir’s general claims. Research has found that hugging and touching release oxytocin in the body, which creates feelings of trust and devotion between people.
Satir was a proponent of improving people’s “coping mechanisms.” She believed that beneath our problems was an inability to cope with something that had happened. This caused a snowball effect that troubled people throughout their lives. Her signature work was a prose poem entitled “I Am Me,” which encapsulated her thinking and the celebration of every individual’s uniqueness. It ended famously in with the uppercase assertion “I AM OKAY.” You can read more about her at Satir Global, a network whose mission is to “further the creation of healthy and just relationships.” Satir died in 1988, but not before influencing millions and, incidentally, laying the groundwork for the Free Hug Movement. “We can learn something new,” Satir wrote, “anytime we believe we can.”