Helping others is important, especially when a small act of kindness is beneficial to both people involved!
Free Hugs in Thailand?
While visiting Thailand last year, I spent two months living in Chiang Mai, a small city a couple hour’s flight north of Bangkok. I’m always looking for ways to volunteer around the world and bring more kindness to strangers because I think helping others is important when we travel. One day, a random community post advertising a free hugs event in town popped up on my Facebook feed. My heart skipped a beat: I’d never done one of these awkward free hugs things before, and even though I was nervous, I wanted to give it a try. Watch the feel good video above to see what the experience was like!
Helping Others is Helping Yourself
Diving into some deep stuff here … Until I actually experienced depression for myself, I had no idea how difficult it was to get out of it. Then I picked up this book called The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, which talks about how depression actually changes our chemical makeup.
According to Korb, those who are experiencing depression can exhibit lower oxytocin levels leading to greater feelings of distress and isolation. Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone we release when we snuggle people. It’s known to help us feel at ease and also bond with others. Feeling down in the dumps? Hugging someone or hosting a free hugs event in your town could help boost your mood and help you start getting reconnected to others. I’ll say it again, getting out of depression takes playing the long game, so hugging people once isn’t going to magically heal you. It is, however, an excellent start to kicking off an upward spiral that will eventually get you out of the funk zone.
Korb also says smiling and laughing can help you feel great because the muscles in your face send a message to your brain that it’s happy. When you hug strangers, it’s definitely awkward and hilarious, so you’ll laugh a lot together. You might even catch yourself smiling when you see someone’s face light up as they receive a hug.
So as you can see helping others has its benefits. Looking to volunteer abroad for cheap? Free hugs are where it’s at.
Inspiration: Free Hugs Campaign
Not all random acts of kindness ideas come from my creative musings, so I like to give credit to others out there paying forward kindness. The Free Hugs Campaign was started by Juan Mann, a guy who turned misfortune into an opportunity to comfort others by hugging strangers. His simple act of good turned into a global campaign, so now there are free hug events around the world. As recommended on their website, check your local laws before you host a free hugs event just to make sure you’re in the clear!
There’s also a National Hugging Day on January 21, so perhaps that would be the appropo day to host your free hugs event. Remember to remind your attendees to make their own free hugs sign at home to bring with them. Permanent marker on cardboard is suitable, just make sure to write the letters bold enough to be seen from far away.
How to Host Your Own Free Hugs Event
Hosting a free hugs event isn’t limited to your own town! It’s actually a great way to make friends while you’re traveling. Plus, compared to other rigorous volunteer abroad opportunities out there, this is pretty easy. You just show up and hug people.
So here’s the easiest way to organize your own free hugs event while traveling:
Step Numero Uno: Navigate on over to the Facebook machine.
Step Two: Do a quick search-a-roo for group pages in the destination that you will be visiting. For example, when I type “Chiang Mai” into the Facebook search, it comes back with a slew of groups, including the top three that have thousands of members. This is something you should be doing any way if you wanna make friends abroad, but just for the context of this post …
Step Three: Request to join said groups
Step Four: Create an event page for your free hugs event, pick a date and time, etc. If you don’t have admin access to create an event listing, then direct message the group organizer, I’m sure they’ll dig getting their community together for free hugs.
Step Five: Share your event page, and stay active on it until the event. You should post in the group a couple times just to let your community know you care and that you’re going to show up. Remember to tell people to make their own signs and bring them to the event. If the Facebook group doesn’t get enough traction for your free hugs event, people out there (myself included) still use Meetup.com. There are oodles of active groups on there that might be happy to promote your get-together to their members, especially since it’s free and all about sharing kindness.
*An important note: I hate to say it, but some people are jerks sometimes …. which sadly is why I’ve needed to start an acts of kindness movement in the first place (think about it, if people were just kind we wouldn’t have to tell each other it’s important). Any how, if a troll posts something discouraging on your free hugs event page or social share about it, kindly hit the delete button and keep going. Or, tell them it sounds like they need a hug and tell them to come to the event. I only say this because, believe it or not, people do publicly write discouraging stuff on my kindness posts. I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but if it does don’t let it stop you.
More Feel Good Videos
Hold up, did you just realize that you need more o’ dis in your life? Me too. There’s way too much negative news out there, and I don’t know about you but that ish majorly gets me down. That’s why I created the Kind Effect: my feel good video series on Youtube. Don’t forget to subscribe for a regular dose of goodness. We’re also on Facebook where I post other inspirational videos about helping others …. like this one below about making strangers play with us in Venice.