How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Find somebody you like and give them a hug. Or if you see someone who looks upset, lonely or otherwise in need of a hug, then give them the gift of a good hug. Regularly hug your spouse, your friends and your children. You can even hug the dog and feel good.
If appropriate, ask them beforehand if you can hug them. If they ask why, then say something like 'I just need a hug' or 'You look like you need a hug'.
When hugging, do not over-do it, hanging on beyond a point of discomfort for them. Do not under-do it either, with a quick, embarrassed grab.
Of course you should be careful of hugging strangers, although it can be surprising who you can hug and not only get away with it but also make the stranger feel good. If in doubt, ask first.
A simpler and related method that works with strangers too is just to show, in a non-hugging way, that you like them or otherwise express appropriate affection.
A final tip: When you hug, ensure you are clean and smell good. There's little as off-putting as being hugged by someone who smells of bad breath, sweat or dirt.
Hugging is a non-verbal way of showing affection. As physical human contact it is very primal, connecting directly with feelings and bypassing the awkwardness of language. Hugging is also good for showing empathy and providing comfort. When you are upset, there's nothing like a good hug, like your mother used to give you when you fell over or came home in tears.
Affectionate and comforting hugging is more common amongst women. Men often stick to ritual hugging in greetings (this is more common in some cultures) and romantic hugging (which they may hope will lead to further contact). Women will be more likely to get away with hugging light acquaintances and strangers.
Any display of affection helps you feel good. Hugging is just a particularly effective non-verbal method. When you show you like other people you remind yourself you are a nice person. You are also likely to get a reciprocal display of affection from the other person, reinforcing this and making you feel more valued.
It is a sad fact of modern life that hugging others can get you into trouble and can even be construed as some form of assault. A simple way around this is to ask permission before you go for the hug. And, sadly again, avoid hugging children unless they are your own or local culture permits this.
Author's note: I've got a very old Snoopy poster on the back of the bedroom door. It shows Snoopy sitting by himself with arms wrapped together and looking very happy. The thought bubble says 'Great lovers always need lots of hugging practice.'