How To Give A Great Hug

UnknownA truly great hug is a rich experience that has you pull another human body deliciously tight into yours as a way of saying, “I so deeply value your presence that I’m taking this exact moment to feel you, smell you, breathe with you – essentially stamp your being into my cellular memory so that even though we may be soon apart, you will in fact always be with me in the living fabric of my existence.”

Also, hugs are physically and emotionally healthy for you – Oxytocin and Dopamine levels increase, which results in bonding, decreased stress, etc. So…

1. Hug like you mean it.

Hugging some people is like embracing a telephone pole. Now, I can literally hug the hell out of a telephone pole –  I’ve done it (see photo below) – but a truly great hug is definitely a two-person co-created gig. However, some people just aren’t ready for a truly great hug, for whatever reason. They might not be comfortable with affection, might be in a rush, or they simply might not trust you, regardless of whether they have good reason. A great hug can quickly turn into a creepy hug when you feel your partner initiate the disconnect but you won’t let go. So hug like you mean it, but if you feel your partner move to let go, let go and live to hug another day. However, if you suddenly find yourself in an embrace with truly great hug potential – or if you’re uncomfortable hugging others and would like to experience a truly great hug – read on.

2. Be willing to be vulnerable. Open your arms.

The act of hugging is an inherently vulnerable act. As we open our arms, we expose our chest, our very heart, to the person before us. It’s a complete gesture of vulnerability, letting the other person know that we trust them enough in this moment to grant them passage into our personal space. You can’t experience a truly great hug if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable. That’s why so many hugs these days are stiff and unsatisfying. Too many of us are afraid to let each other in. So if you’re with someone you know will behave respectfully inside your embrace, take the risk and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Open your arms and…

3. Close your eyes.

4. Breathe into the embrace

Once the embrace has begun, rather than immediately unplug the hug before an authentic embrace has even happened, simply take a deep breath. Allow yourself at least one deep breath before you even think about releasing. You might find both bodies spontaneously synchronize to each other’s breathing. Breathing in harmony with another body pressed against yours is a wondrous experience. So often, we quickly disconnect our hugs because we’re afraid of holding the other beyond their comfort zone. But you’ll be amazed how many people in our world are starving for affection. We don’t lovingly touch each other enough. We’re literally dying to be touched. That longer, deeper embrace you’re willing to share just might be the medicine the person you’re embracing needs.

5. Lean into the embrace.

I’m not a fan of the “tent hug,” that hug where we create a tent by sticking our butts out so we don’t touch too much. Look, we’re creating a non-sexual hug here, but it’s ok that our bodies touch. In fact, the most delicious, satisfying hugs are those where two bodies really meet each other. Our chakras all lined up and zapping each other with good vibes. Unfortunately, because we live in a culture so sexually screwed up (so to speak), a truly great hug does risk jiggling repressed sexual hot buttons we don’t want jiggled. So, find the balance here. There’s little less satisfying than hugging someone so afraid of hugging me back that I can feel them exiting before we’ve even begun. Just find the balance.

6. Squeeze, but don’t suffocate.

A true hug is an embrace, an encircling, a loving act of surrounding another to let them know they are safe, accepted, loved. Beyond the superficial world available to our mortal eyes, a genuine embrace is a deep form of embodied communication by which one beating heart can whisper to another, “I see you.” A great hug is definitely NOT an imposition on another. We do not temporarily imprison another in our arms. Rather, it’s firm enough to say “I’ve got you” and loose enough to say “you’re free to leave whenever you want.”

7. Just BE with the person you’re embracing.

A truly great hug is a deeply mindful practice. It’s a moment to really be with another human. The very gesture itself is a curious, even if ultimately futile, attempt by two bodies to occupy the same space at the same time. We’re literally pressing our bodies together as if to say, let’s just both be here together, as one body, in this one place, at this very moment in time. It’s an extraordinary gesture. Give yourself to the experience and really be here, in this brief moment, with this one person. Drink in the scent of their hair, notice the pressure of their body pressing against yours, notice all the thoughts that arise in your mind, and then simply let them pass. Be here now.

8. Let go. Smile. Breathe. (Click to tweet)

Absolutely nothing in life is meant to last forever. A truly great hug ends with the simple act of letting go. Letting go is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn in this lifetime. It’s our way of actively participating in the Life’s evolution, for there can be no new creation if we hold on to what once was. But if you do it right, that great hug will linger with you like sweet perfume for a brief moment, and you’ll be able to recall it in your mind whenever you want to. Nonetheless, it’s time for you both to let go and return to your separate journeys. Just know that the electrical magnetic fields of your two heartbeats intertwined in that embrace and so you are, indeed, now indelibly marked by each other’s being. You literally carry information about each other in your bodies. And that’s no woo-woo metaphysics! That’s for real (** see below)!

9. * Bonus Technique for the ambitious – The Massage Hug

This is a real fan favorite. Sometimes when I’m hugging another, I’ll use my hands and fingers to gently massage their back. It’s just amazing how starved we are for touch, and this little added gesture can take a great hug and make it absolutely unforgettable. However, I suggest you attempt this only once genuine trust is established. And you probably shouldn’t attempt it with your co-worker in the hallway. You’ll know when it’s right (thanks to my dear brother, Moses Love, from for teaching me this one).

Now get out there and hug somebody like you mean it! Lives may very well depend on it… and Love definitely does!

p.s. No one to hug? Just wrap your arms around yourself and give it to you. Yeah, I know it’s better with another human being. It just is, let’s not kid ourselves. Still, hugging yourself, if nothing else, is a great way to stretch your shoulders! Whatever you do, have fun doing it!


That pole was seriously asking for it!

** The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Communication Within and Between People Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. Chapter published in: Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, edited by P. J. Rosch and M. S. Markov. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2004: 541-562. (




A former Captain in the US Air Force, Bryan Reeves is a life breakthrough coach and transformational projects entrepreneur who’s worked alongside world-renowned luminaries such as the Dalai Lama’s Oracle of Tibet, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Byron Katie, Don Miguel Ruiz, Marianne Williamson, Michael Beckwith and many more. Discover Bryan at and on Twitter (@bryishere).

  • Ashley Suzanne Quinn

    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. Thank you! I really do want to walk around with a “Free Hugs” sign. Is there a recognized Free Hug Day?

  • Jules

    I am a HUGGER, it’s something I naturally do with people who I care about and people who stand before me who I know need one sometimes. I work in the long term care field and I have had to stand in front of someone who has lost a loved one many times and the most natural thing that happens is We Hug. It has happened so many times now over these past 10 years. I need hugs sometimes and I ask for them from those that I know are great huggers. The most important thing out of this today for me was the memory of hugging my brother who is a year older than I when we parted a week before he died unexpectedly. The memory of our embrace and the words of expressing our love for each other is one that keeps a smile on my face when I think of him and know that our last contact was LOVE… I love how you have shared your insight in giving a great hug, I will incorporate your suggestions next time I get or give a hug. In this world of reaching out this way to others it’s always natural for me to end a text or email with a HUGS…and as I write it I mean it…sooo HUGS TO YOU today…((((HUGS))))

    • hey jules, that’s a beautiful share. thank you. yeah, we really have the memory of certain embraces embedded in our bodies, which is pretty awesome. receiving and reciprocating an AWESOME HUG with you!

    • Greg

      I hugged a stranger once. I’m a yoga teacher and she walked into class and I arose, opened my armed and stepped up to her and hugged. Later, I overheard her respond to girl friend about she felt. She said it made her feel so welcome and special. Needless to say we remain friends.

  • Teresa

    You are so hilarious and adorably cute!!! Thanks for making my day hugging that pole:-) I never thought I’d be jealous of a pole … LOL

    • ha … yeah you should have seen that lamp pole blushing afterwards 😉 … well, if we ever cross paths, feel free to hug tackle me. hmmmm, I didn’t write about that technique.

  • Ruthie

    Love it! I’m a hugger and have been hugging lots of people I don’t know of late as I’m sensing when I’m talking to them that they need a hug. I always ask first (either do you need a hug or would you like a hug) and haven’t had a knock back yet. I believe the Uni-verse hugs them through me I’m just the hug dispenser 🙂 but I always get blessed back because you can’t give a hug without getting one!

    • indeed. EVERYONE wins with a good hug.

  • Sasha Airesse

    I ♥ this ! We need more hugging going on 🙂 This reminded me of a total stranger on the streets of Paris, scooping me up in one of the BEST hugs in my life. (He was gorgeous and smelled so nice too!)…I was 18 and at that time people would tell me that Parisians are “cold” to tourists (Of course, I dressed like I would normally do, -not shorts and tshirt but a dress fitting for Paris)…And I can say that he wasn’t cold, but sweet and warm, not pervy….and that’s the only time in my life I’ve been hugged by a total stranger just as we were passing each other on a street. I was with my two girlfriends (who were a bit surprised by this man hugging me & tickled at the same time) – by the time our European Great Escape tour came to a close, we all vowed we would marry a European man… 🙂 That man made a lasting impression on me, and it brought me a bit more out of my shyness. He made my day, my month, and many years….If i’m feeling the world is too cold a place, for me, I have that sweet memory to warm my hear…La Vie en Rose ♥

    • wow. what stopped you from immediately pushing him away???

      • Sasha Airesse

        1. I was with 2 girlfriends on a busy sidewalk, and it happened so fast.

        2. He was gorgeous! Tall, Dark hair, and handsome.

        3. He was a doll. He said the sweetest thing to me to me that I’m not repeating in case I ever meet him again. 🙂

        4. He didn’t sneak up on me. We saw him as he walked towards us. He flashed a great big smile, opened his arms and rushed up to hug me.
        5. He wasn’t aggressive, but embraced me with warmth and tenderness…He smelled so good, and who wouldn’t love a hug from a gorgeous Parisian man? teehee 🙂

        • ahhhh yes I get it. I’m comfortably heterosexual, and the way you describe it I’m sure I’d totally love a hug from a gorgeous Parisian man, too. … awesome 🙂

          • Sasha Airesse

            Hello Bryan,

            Thank you for your sweet response. I’m sure you would – I wish everyone a hug like that… ♥ More Hugging ♥
            Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. ~

  • Tone

    In Wales (Gales, Paid de Galles, Walia, Oualia, Velas, Cymru), we have a word which we also use in English to epitomise these close, warm, affirming hugs: a cwtch. Rhymes with ‘butch’. Some derivation as ‘couch’ or ‘cutchy-coo’. So, in Wales, we love given cwtches.

  • Tone

    In Wales (Gales, Pais de Galles, Walia, Oualia, Velas, Cymru), we have a word which we also use in English to epitomise these close, warm, affirming hugs: a cwtch. Rhymes with ‘butch’. Some derivation as ‘couch’ or ‘cutchy-coo’. So, in Wales, we love given cwtches.

    • i love it. And I love Wales … I had a nervous breakdown in a phone booth up in Northern Wales just after I left the military 13 years ago, when I was traveling around the world desperately looking for my Self. 🙂

  • Corey Johnson

    I love hugging.

  • Carol

    This was lovely to read, made me smile ear to ear, you are a soul mate.

    • Awww thanks Carol. That’s sweet of you to say. Bryan

  • Pamela Clements

    This is such a beautiful post – I am a hugger from way back – part of my culture (Spanish). Nothing more satisfying than a long, close, tight squeezing hug, usually ending with a kiss (on the cheek, or elsewhere) I love to give and receive affection. Nothing in the world feels better.

  • Jessica Doerfler

    I give my grandma a lot of hugs because she is special to me.

  • Jessica Doerfler

    I would like to give Maria Shriver a hug.

  • As someone who has been born in Poland I appreciate this “How to Hug Poles” article 🙂