This morning I will take to the coast for a last walk before I fly back to Scotland. I’ll walk a narrow path that hugs the cliff, this time on my own. A few days ago there had been three of us, but my walking companions have gone back to Canada. Yesterday as I walked it, I looked up to the white trails in the sky and wondered at the slim possibility that I might be gazing up at their flight. We had said our goodbyes and exchanged long hugs, enough to last for another year, most likely.
M. tells me that a meaningful hug should be last for 30 seconds. Sounds uncomfortably long, doesn’t it? I ask him if he’s sure it’s not just an excuse for a longer hug! He assures me that, although it might be (and there’s no harm in that), there is a scientific reason for it. Brain research shows that after about 20 seconds of a proper hug, your body releases the oxytocin hormone, which makes you feel safe, secure and connected. I say ‘proper’ hug, because there is nothing worse than a half-hearted hug; a kind of a light pat on the back, where arms hover over you.
I have seen some of my nephews this week. They are of an age where they are becoming allergic to hugs from anyone other than their parents. Even then, theirs are not anything approaching 20 seconds. But I imagine they will grow back into 20 second hugs. One nephew, S., is 10 years old. He still likes a hug, but a backwards hug, one where he leans his back into you and allows you to wrap one arm around his front. It works. I nearly got a new-baby-hug yesterday but he was too tiny, just days old, and so I’ll have to wait a little longer for that one.
Right now though, I am off to hug the coast for one last time. I’m quite sure my coastal walk releases oxytocin too!