Global Free Hugs was started by Juan Mann, whose mission was to brighten people’s lives, or at the very least, their day. I watched his social experiment video a few years ago, and became totally inspired, although I never thought I’d see the day where I would be the one willingly standing out in a public square, soliciting free hugs to complete strangers… but alas, the day has come and (sadly) gone. Here are five things I learned in the process:
1. Foreigners dig hugs. Americans? Not so much.
So, in the process of facilitating this social experiment, we noticed that foreigners were way more apt to receive a free hug over Americans. Is this why I think Europe is so dreamy? Look, I know we (Americans) value our imagined little bubbles, but come on. . . . We were giving away HUGS . . . . for free! On the flip side, we did get a lot of thumbs up for the cause, and some smiles from people who were trying really hard not to smile. For me, that’s enough. So I’ll take it.
2. Our concept of “free” has been completely lost in our commercialized society.
At least half the people we hugged (and some who didn’t want hugs) asked what the catch was: “No really, how many donations are you soliciting?” When we explained that we weren’t taking donations, or that we didn’t represent a company etc. they seemed puzzled and asked, “Then why are you doing this?” More often than not I answered with: “Because everyone needs a hug.” And, in fact, it’s true! Studies have shown that a person who gives and/or receives about 12 hugs per day will lead a healthier, happier, and more fulfilled life. So what are you waiting for? Start hugging!
3. Receiving is awesome, but giving is more awesome.
I’m not gonna lie, I love receiving gifts. It’s actually one of my love languages. However, the joy I got from knowing I’ve directly helped to improve someone else’s life or day is on a totally different (higher) level than the joy I get from knowing someone was thinking about little ol’ me. To give is to receive. You cannot give without receiving joy in return. It’s all-encompassing and I highly encourage this practice! I hugged one guy and he said, “Thank you. I really needed that.” It literally made my entire weekend!
4. Contrary to popular belief, Karma is not a bitch (at least not always).
We gave free hugs away in Santa Monica on 3rd street promenade, and had to park in a nearby structure, which of course, is not free. We did our two hours of free hugs (which went by really, really fast) and when we went to leave and pay for our parking, the ticket spit back out with $0.00 on it. I’m not sure if this was a coincidence, but I’d like to think it was Karma working her ways in our favor. So if that was you, thank you. Free parking in L.A. is like winning the lottery.
5. The best way to deal with rejection is to subject yourself to it!
I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely terrified of rejection. So much so, that I will intentionally avoid certain situations in anticipation of this very scary element of life. What I loved about Free Hugs is that it forces you to step outside of your comfort zone and face that rejection head on. I feel way less intimidated by rejection than I’ve ever felt!