London Bridge

Free Hugs Friday a First at London BridgeA warm early evening in London, what better way to spend it then to offer free hugs to everyone on and around London Bridge? The guerrilla team settled them selves at the corner of Duke Hill Street and London Bridge and awaited the approach of people wanting hugs. A good point was raised by someone on Twitter who was watching us:

“I’m watching you at London Bridge. I see no gorillas, and you’re not forcing hugs on people – your name is terrible! ;)”


I replied:

The Big Squeeze“Why thank you! Come & have a hug!”


“I’m enjoying watching the terrified/confused looks on most peoples faces WAY more!”

He was right lots of people look worried, curious, suspicious as they pass us by, is this because we have created a culture of fear? Considering how important touch is and how difficult for some people to give or receive touch is, we are mindful in how we approach ‘free hugs’, I suppose the bigger concern is that touch or comforting children at school is off limits, is this a form of neglect? I would argue that the children, older people, those in care of any sort need touch from people other than medical interventions. Instinctively comforting another human being is an important part of building communities, generating loyalty and bonding behaviours, reducing aggression and increasing human thriving.

We can all make a difference by reaching out to others, being open to connection and by challenging inhuman policies.

Although lots of people didn’t stop for a hug on Friday, rushing for the train etc the one thing that we always notice is that people smile, laugh and something shifts. We don’t need to jump on people, dress as gorillas or even get one hug when we do guerrilla hugs if we have a positive effect on one person’s day then that’s good enough. Although in fairness I love the idea of dressing as a gorilla and hugging people – if you know anyone who has a beautiful gorilla suit – not those nasty plastic smelly ones – please let me know!

RSA Events – Flourish

Martin Seligman the author of Flourish and one of the people who coined the term Positive Psychology gave a talk on the aspects of his book on the 6th July 2011 at the RSA. The room was packed and the event was podcast live. The RSA always put on great events, this one is close to my heart. I am familiar with Seligman’s work, his early research into learned helplessness led him to developing learned optimism, and evolving more of a balance within the psychology field more emphasis on flourishing rather than repairing or fixing problems.

Flourish – Can you flourish without touch?

Seligman manages to explore human flourishing without actually exploring human touch, this I find disappointing, how can people thrive or flourish without physical contact?

Martin Seligman gets a Hug at the RSA On the 2nd July in Newcastle Under Lyme some first time huggers got busy offering free hugs in the town centre. A new outpost of Guerrilla Huggers has now been formed. I travelled with a friend who has been an observer of our hugs before but had never offered free hugs. She was still unsure as to whether she would hug or not. When we arrived she decided to go for it, what happened had a significant impact on her mood and shifted her well being up a few notches.

Newcastle Under Lyme Hugs

As she was offering hugs her confidence grew, she smiled more, her stature was different and everything seemed to flow. Then an older man stopped for a hug, she duly hugged him, he said “I so miss being held, I haven’t had a hug since my wife died”. They stood chatting about the importance of touch and how to find ways of getting more platonic touch in life, it’s the one thing that everyone steers clear of and yet everyone needs touch in their life to thrive. I am writing this here to illustrate the need for positive psychology, policy makers and people in general to start recognising the obvious need to create safe touch in everyday life for people who live alone of any age, for people in care homes and hospitals to receive touch other than medical interventions. Since my friend came hugging she reports a significant shift in her own well being, she feels happier and life feels better for her, could it be that by giving hugs you increase your own well being by intention?

Man Hugs

I asked Seligman about the exclusion of touch from the notion of human flourishing, he agreed there is a need for more research into touch – you can listen here I ask it right at the end. Where does touch sit in the notion of human rights? The right to have connections with meaning and purpose not based on fear?


Guerrilla Hugs Newcastle Under Lyme

Sat July 2nd 2011 was international Free Hugs day as set by the original Free Hugger ‘Juan Mann’ so we brought Guerrilla Hugs to Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire. It was the first time we had done free hugs so were supported by Guerrilla Hugs Navigator who very kindly agreed to travel from London to show us how it’s done.

Come Here Give Us a Squeeze

It was an amazing heart-opening experience which left me on a high for days after. We hugged all ages & were especially delighted at how many young people were happy to give & receive hugs. Even those who weren’t confident enough to have a hug were smiling as they watched. A local shop keeper came out with lovely fudge to share; the sun shone brightly, we all felt very blessed. Here are some of the comments from both huggers & the huggees!


“It was amazing – a real heart opening experience; I was on a high for days after!

“It was fantastic – I would love to do it again!

“It was a joyous experience…. Just like one big family hugging each other.”

“It was quite challenging being so open & being turned down by some people, but it felt as though we’d changed the energy of the space after an hour”.


Give One Get One Free GOGOF

“I loved the hugs day and couldn’t stop smiling about it for the rest of the day. I was amazed by the number of children who were sent over by their parents for hugs – so lovely in this ‘do not touch’ society we have now – when I taught in infant and primary schools we were not permitted to hug a child!! It was also lovely to see the onlookers, who were too shy to approach us, walk by with a smile on their faces. The happy feel good energy was palpable in Newcastle that day.”

Saturday Shopping Hugs


“It’s so important to spread some love.”

Hugging is Good!

“I’ve just spent £600 so I really need a hug!”

One lady said she didn’t want a hug as ‘it would make me cry’

One bloke sat on a bench who refused a hug but said ‘I’m just enjoying watching your antics’!!’

A business man coming out from the bank in a suit who said ‘How can I resist that?!’

Several elderly ladies who said ‘that was lovely, I haven’t had a hug like that since my husband died’

Hug to the Left to the Left!

“I had some lovely comments, but the resounding comment was that we should do it more often. One lady said we should do it every week. Another said it should be on the NHS, particularly for lonely elderly people.”

One elderly lady said “Where are the beefy men?”

One elderly guy asked “Will you marry me?”