International Happiness Day 20th March 2013

I left my house and as I walked around the corner I instantly regretted not putting thermals on under my clothes – a bitterly cold March day saw the first International Happiness Day bring a little sunshine by way of random acts of kindness world-wide. Guerrilla Hugs was delighted to take part and warm the cockles of people’s hearts at Waterloo. Armed with a heap of Guerrilla Hugs boards I headed to the station to meet Emma (experienced hugger and kindness personified) to head down to Waterloo.

I’m never sure who will turn up and always hope that people will feel able to come and join in and I was not disappointed! New Guerrilla Huggers joined, Jon Jon, Ewa, Adam and Richard. We met at a coffee shop, after the initial briefing walked towards the Southbank stopping just under the arches. It was FREEZING! Nonetheless it wasn’t long before people were heading in for hugs, chatting and smiling as they passed us by or gave us a hug.

I bumped into 2 fellow MAPP students who are just beginning their research and gave them a huge hug (I recall how much hard work the research is and am pleased to have finished mine). Soon Paul from Action for Happiness arrived with a ‘Happy Hero’ Medal for Guerrilla Hugs – what a lovely thing to happen! I was really touched and as much as I wanted to cling onto it – I immediately knew who I was going to pass it onto.

The hour of hugs soon came to an end and we all headed off to our next event, Adam was going to join in the positive messages flash mob at Liverpool Street!

That evening I passed the Happy Hero Medal onto Delwar Hossain for his kindness, humility and work that he does with East End youth.

I hope that we will get our and hug a lot more this year – if you want to come along or suggest a location please send me an email guerrillahugs @

Happy Hugging!

Hugging Japan

In 2001 I flew to Japan for a 3 day orientation program for about 150 teenagers aged 16 to 18, who were about to study for a high school year abroad in either Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada or the UK. My role was to help prepare them for differences and especially the initial culture shock of arriving in a foreign land away from their family, friends and familiar life for a whole year. During this orientation, the Japanese program director described what to expect on arrival at the airport. She explained that the students should collect their luggage and walk through the gates, and then they would probably see a family or group of people holding a sign with their name on it.

“Then they will do something that maybe no one has ever done before” she smiled. “They will hold out their arms like this. And they will come towards you”. The students all giggled, embarrassed, and looked around at their friends. Yuko continued by coming towards me with her arms outstretched, as she explained that what she was doing was a common way to welcome someone in these cultures and it is called a hug. Yuko and I had a big hug and then turned to the students.

She asked the students to ‘practice’ and hug the person next to them, and I quickly jumped up on a chair to take this photo. To this day it is one of my favourite photos ever – to see the sheer delight on the faces of these students is magical. Afterwards Yuko asked if anyone had any questions and one girl put up her hand and said “Can I please hug someone who knows how to hug?” I agreed instantly and she came running up towards me and I swung her around in a big bear hug to the sound of a room full of cheers and laughter.

Hugging is brilliant. Well done Guerrilla Hugs for bringing a nice big warm friendly bit of human touch into our lives!


Camden Free Hugs 9th August 2011

Follow us on Twitter @guerrillahugs

The last few days in London have been scary, the constant sound of sirens, the tension building as the day draws to a close, the daylight looting, the fires, lost homes, livelihoods and businesses. I have been glued to twitter, the news, the radio and the location of my son! After a pretty sleepless night I was determined to do something, help with the clean up, try to make a difference. I contacted the hugging team, many of who work in the public sector in the boroughs that have been affected by the looting and violence to see if we could go and hug, make connection, bring some sense of caring to the community in London. No joy – everyone has to work or live in different parts of town that have become slightly cut off. I couldn’t just sit at home, write up my research proposal and feel ok with that… so I grabbed the Guerrilla Hugs ‘Free Hugs’ boards and drove to Camden.

Free Hugs in Camden

Just outside the Sainsburys and Evans Cycles there were people wanting to help with the clean up but unable to due to the crime scene investigations. I approached some of the people and asked would come and offer free hugs to make people feel better – that was it – new Guerrilla Huggers were recruited and after hugging the police officer posted outside Sainsburys we headed off to the junction of the Stables and Chalk Farm Road.

Immediately people came for a hug, smiled, thanked us and made unanimous the view that we all need a hug today.

Watching the YouTube video of the injured boy being robbed had me in floods of tears this morning, how can anyone be so uncaring, opportunistic and callous? That is someone’s son, brother, cousin, grandson, friend, it could have been you! We all need to see that everyone is human, stop dehumanising by distancing your behaviour from the impact on everyone. Think this could be your family, you, would you want it to happen to you?

We want to make the world a better place!


Then there are the people who are out there trying to protect communities, helping to clean up the mess, to speak and connect with others at this time, the woman who kindly gave all the huggers a home made cupcake – THANK YOU!

NW1 Free Hugs






There are more good youth out, look out for each other, protect the people you live next door to, check on those who live a lone, who need to feel like there is someone to call upon. Lets strive for PEACE!

And lets us not forget the brooms! PEACE!

Feel the LOVE Clean Up!

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 – Picnic

Hello Huggers & Friends!

We are going to be offering free hugs on the 15th May and after having a picnic! If you would like to come email: for details!

Double Hugging – Check out the girl running in for a hug in the background! Lovely!

We will only have 5/6 dedicated huggers but everyone is welcome to come to have a hug and join in the picnic!

Happy Saturday night!


South Bank Hugs!

Hugs for Free!

A serendipitous meeting at Brick lane with the film’s director, maker and driving force Menelik Shabazz resulted in a dream come true for me, I was to be in the same room as Janet Kay the singer of, yes, my all time top favourite tune Silly Games! Not only that but to have some intelligent conversation with Menelik about the importance of touch and hugs in relation to a whole music genre that I personally love and recognise to be at the forefront of breaking down racial barriers. Wow is really an understatement!

I’m not hugging – I’ll jut take photos! Yeah – right Phil!

Saturday 9th April a gloriously sunny day, Guerrilla Huggers met at the riverside bar to discuss our hugging in support of Lovers Rock The Film. So there we are discussing the rules, boundaries and expectations of free hugs, excited and thrilled to be able to endorse an inspirational documentary, that may reignite the whole Lovers Rock scene.


Sunshine Hugs!

Our team Levi, Jazzy, Paula, Paula (yes that’s two Paula’s), Phil, Maren, Maymay, Livia, Kris, Phil, Kym, Imelda, Lynsey and photographer Clara Copley! All at ready!


People watched, hovered round the edges, smiled politely and some even came in for a hug! Young men on their bikes doing tricks came in for hugs, small children got stickers and hugs,

Pretty in Pink!

people chatted as they looked on and some of our huggers even had queues forming, young women, older women and others made a b-line for Kris! Phil “I’m not hugging” grabbed a free hugs board and started hugging, converted he has vowed to come along and do more free hugs. As I looked up I was amazed at how many people were watching, taking photos and video clips and smiling, even without being hugged they were able to get some joy from the free hugs.


Group Hugs!

Many photos were taken by my trusty camera, alas iPhoto crashed and I lost them, if anyone knows how to find my lost images please get in touch! Images taken on the day by Clara Copley are great and we really appreciate her support!


Next hugs at the Action for Happiness launch event!

The Choir With No Name – Brick Lane

By Jenny – First Time Guerrilla Hugger!

Brick Lane The Hugging Mile?

Not long ago… A good friend of mine – Amandeep, told me about this crazy idea of giving out free hugs on Carnaby Street, and that I should come along…. and I thought… naaaaah… your alright you crazy woman… i’ll join you afters for a beer though?

It had been one of those very long days at work… that was thankfully behind me, the walk to Carnaby Street cleared my head, and I was sure that a pint would go down a treat. But you know what? I got more than I bargained for when I turned up to find a group of folks surrounded in a buzz of laughter, happiness, and hugs.

For the rest of the evening (apart from when we decided to kill the karaoke machine in some unknown joint in Soho) I listened to the Guerrilla Navigator and her team talk about Guerilla Hugs, talk about why they did what they did, what the reactions were in people who may or may not have accepted a free hug, and having seen footage and photos I realised just how much impact a little human affection as simple as a hug could change a persons mood.

Sign me up.. I thought… I was sold on the idea.

So last night… I turned up on Brick Lane, with the intention of becoming one of the “huggers”. Problem was…. I had thought about it too much. Do I want to hug all those strangers? I was having the same thought as those people who walked by gracefully declining a free hug… with the thought in their minds…. urrrggghhh bodily contact with strangers??? No thanks. So I whispered quietly to Amandeep… “I was thinking of pulling out. I still want to support you guys. But I’m not sure about this.”

Well that was met with the coolest reaction from everyone in the team. “Thats totally fine Jen… you don’t have to do anything. Loads of people feel the same. It’s cool. Why don’t you take photos instead? Thats still supporting us!”.

Phew I thought, (well.. actually I thought “Jen… you are such a wimp” ) …so official photographer it is then.

It took about 10 minutes before I gave up role of official photographer to take up my place as official hugger. Ok we all know we love hugs… and yes people have friends and family to hug… but if you think about it… really think about it… I bet you will realise you don’t hug enough. For whatever reason.

It was really great to see people realise they were in for a free hug and then see the looks on their faces as they walked away with a little more spring in their step.

A hug has a seriously positive impact on people… and there is absolutely nothing wrong with creating more positivity in another persons life, albeit for a moment. They will appreciate it for sure… and the good thing about a hug is its a two way thing. Double the impact!!

Diary of a Reluctant Hugger or The Worm That Turned!

Free Friday hugs….

“I’ll take part” – I shouted enthusiastically, “count me in”.  It was a gloomy rainy day, and I spent most of the day looking out of the window hoping the event will be cancelled…it wasn’t.

So off I went, left work early telling my boss and colleagues that I was going to give free hugs to strangers – they all looked horrified and asked why?  I smiled and explained the ‘theory’ behind the concept , adding it will be fun, I’ll step out of my comfort zone…

The Banner… No turning back now!

As I approached the rendezvous café a sudden rush of panic and anxiety came over me, what am I doing? I approached the café and discovered that there were only 3 huggers?? Again my heart began pounding anxiously – Majella’s plan was to cover different corners of Carnaby Street – no I shouted (well in my head anyway) let’s stick together, safety in numbers and all that.  Is it too late to back out now – I wondered?


The group walk down Carnaby Street, found the perfect spot and out come the signs and up goes the banner.  AT this point 45 minutes of hugging seems like an eternity…

Tentatively  I hold up my ‘free hugs’ sign, first low down, so now one can see it.  Then, at some point feeling more confident I raised it above my head.  Holding it high and proud.

I’m not sure when the turning point was, perhaps after my first hug, but something changed and I was so happy and proud to be doing what we were doing.  I began shouting ‘free hugs..come and get a free hug…’ and ‘anyone need a hug?’ ‘It will make you feel better’.

Wow what had got into me – all the anxious and nervous feelings from 15/20 minutes ago had disappeared.  I was loving it.  I had the hugest smile on my face.   I was totally buzzing from the whole experience.  I really wasn’t expecting the reactions we got.  Most people willingly came up, arms wide open, for a hug, this totally blew me away.  And the kindness and gratitude was heart-warming “thank you, I really need that” or “that was great, I really feel better now – thanks”.

I always knew that hugging released a lot of serotonin and oxytocin – the feel good and bonding hormones, and last Friday’s event proved it.  Now, I’m not sure if it was the adrenalin, the random act of kindness or the benefits of hugging, but I sure did feel good.  And proved to me that people of all ages, cultures and ethnicities and from all over the world love to be hugged.

So the very next day, after dinner at my brothers, I made him and my male cousin give me a proper hug!

Bring on the hugs…Can’t wait for the next free hugging event.

Amandeep is  member of the Guerrilla Hugs Board, she is now an experienced oxytocin promoter and advocate of increasing well being for everyone!