How to Feel a Virtual Hug

Since the pandemic started last year, a hug is something that I don’t think any of us will take for granted again. We used to be able to hug complete strangers at new year and now we can’t even hug our loved ones. This is one of the things that I have struggled with the most. My boyfriend gives me the most amazing, tight, comforting hugs that just make all of my problems melt away. The problem is, we haven’t been able to see each other in person for ten months now. I really, desperately need that cuddle and I have dine since we last saw each other in March last year.

Virtual hugs have become the norm. For quite a long time now, even before the virus people often wrote in messages “sending big hugs” or something along those lines. This is lovely and thoughtful, but I think we have got to used to reading those words. I think we have lost focus of what the words actually mean and what this hug should feel like.

A few weeks ago I was feeling really upset and stressed. I really needed a cuddle. I was messaging my boyfriend at the time and telling him how I was feeling. He told me to imagine that he was giving me a cuddle. Instead of leaving it at that, he talked me through what he would be doing if he was sat there with me. He has very kindly said that I can share his messages with you all.

“imagine us, with me hugging you holding you tight to me, kissing your forehead and then your cheek and then just holding you, slowly lightly rubbing your back, gently up and down with both hands 💖💖💖

I tried to take a break from everything that I was doing and thinking and really take my mind to the moment that he was describing. I thought about similar cuddles we’d had in the past, how they felt and how comforting they were. When my imaginary cuddle had finished, I was really surprised that I did actually feel a lot calmer. I had a warm cozy feeling, almost as if I had just had a real cuddle.

I have been thinking about this a lot ever since and trying to understand how it worked so well. I think that in real life, that physical contact of a hug brings feelings to the surface. Feelings of warmth, comfort, protection, love and many other emotional and physical feelings. What I have realised is that you can still bring those feelings to the surface, even without having that physical contact as a trigger.

In a way it is like what I had to do in my cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) last year. I was having it to treat my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the therapy I had to really take my mind back to that moment when the trauma happened. I had to think about what i saw, what I could hear, what I could smell and taste. Every single little detail that I could think of. This then brought feelings to the surface of how I felt at the time of the trauma. So during this imaginary cuddle that my boyfriend was describing, I was able to take my mind back to when we had a real cuddle like that. I remembered how it made me feel, emotionally and physically. I took my mind back to that peaceful moment where all of my troubles had just melted away. Doing this then resulted in me feeling much more relaxed in the present moment, almost as if it had really happened.

Obviously you can’t beat a real hug, but while all this is going on why not try this? Next time you send somebody a virtual hug, describe it in as much detail as you possibly can and encourage them to take a minute and try and imagine it. Even just having that short amount of time to take your mind somewhere more positive could help you to feel a bit better.

xx ❤ xx

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