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On National Hugging Day a best-selling author shares socially distanced ideas to connect people


By Louise Glen

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Eoin McLaughlin.
Eoin McLaughlin.

A best-selling children’s author who wrote about how to show socially distant love is encouraging people to find alternatives to hugging this year on National Hugging Day as part of Eden Project Communities #WinterWarmers campaign saying “You can’t put a price on giving someone a hug”.

A children’s author whose book While We Can’t Hug explores how we can show our love whilst remaining socially distant has encouraged people to think of different ways to reach out, whilst we might not be able to hug on National Hugging Day.

Eoin McLaughlin (35) released his debut book The Hug two years ago, and during the pandemic he wrote the book While We Can’t Hug aimed at helping parents explain social distancing to their children.

Children's book The Hug.
Children's book The Hug.

The heart-warming picture books written by the father from Surrey are illustrated by Polly Dunbar, and have been hailed as a Book of the Year by The Guardian.

Mr McLaughlin is an ambassador for Eden Project Communities’ #WinterWarmer campaign to help encourage people to carry out an act of kindness over the colder months.

The campaign created by the world-famous Eden Project and made possible by The National Lottery, includes a number of activities to help people connect with the aim that a small positive gesture, goes a mighty long way.

#WinterWarmer ideas include reaching out by saying hello to a neighbour or someone in the street, connecting with someone you miss by sending a card, reaching out online or calling them on the phone, or even making a small gift to share.

Speaking about the campaign, the author said: “It’s a wonderful idea, little things can have big impact. We can't save the whole world every week, but we can brighten somebody else's day and that's a pretty good start."

While National Hugging Day is primarily observed in the US, countries around the world participate in the celebrations, whether it’s by making a conscious effort to embrace your neighbour or setting a record for the largest group hug.

The holiday was started by American Kevin Zaborney, who introduced it on January 21, 1986 in Michigan.

National Hugging Day is normally a day where people are encouraged to hug everyone, no matter who they are: members of family, friends or strangers, because of the benefits for both mental and physical health.

Hugging can reduce feelings of loneliness. Hugs release oxytocin in the brain, the hormone also known as the bonding molecule as it can elevate feelings of intimacy and helps stimulate social bonding between people.

Not only that, a simple hug can help us with feelings of anxiety and depression. Research shows hugging someone for just 20 seconds a day can help reduce stress and make you feel better.

Mr McLaughlin has encouraged people to find alternative ways of showing your love on National Hugging Day.

In addition to oxytocin, research shows that hugging someone releases the hormone dopamine in the brain, known as the pleasure hormone as it prompts feelings of happiness.

This year, due to social distancing millions of people won’t be able to hug their friends or loved ones, but you can show your love in different ways.

Mr McLaughlin told Eden Project Communities: “The big thing we’ve all been missing over the past year is human contact, and our friends and family and I guess the hug is the thing that symbolises that, in the clearest way.

“The thing that comes to mind when we’re missing someone is a hug because that’s the first thing you do when you see someone, and the last thing you do when you say goodbye to someone.

“So I think when you’re missing someone the first thing that comes into your head is you want to hug them, and that’s obviously just a symbol of lots of things you’re missing. You’re missing chatting with them, the nuances of being with someone in person versus on video.”

He added: “With children I found having a sing song, or a dance, all of that stuff really helped them still stay connected. It’s a different way to express your love.

“It’s important to think about others - maybe each week think of one nice thing you could do for someone as a nice way to go about it - just think this week who do I want to do something nice for?"

He said it is still important to reach out, even if you can’t give someone a hug this year, there are other ways you can show your love.

“You can’t put a price on giving someone a hug, and I think at the moment we all still need to connect and reach out, and it’s so important to still tell those people you love how you feel, you just need to find different ways to express it."

To find out about Eden Project Communities #WinterWarmers campaign and to get more ideas about reaching out and connecting with people go to www.edenprojectcommunities.com.


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