Sometimes, all you need is a good hug to make everything better. There’s something about this simple unspoken act that can turn a mood around. Maybe it’s closeness or the physical expression of empathy. Either way knowing that someone is in your corner gives one enough positive energy to turn a situation around.
This simple insight is the inspiration behind the global phenomenon of the Free Hugs Movement. Started in 2004 by an Australian who uses the pseudonym, Juan Mann.
That year, after experiencing personal difficulties, Juan was forced to move back to his native Sydney. When he got there he realized how few people he knew when he was growing up were still there; Mann felt like a stranger in his own hometown.
Feeling isolated and lonely, Mann quickly fell into a depression. But, all that changed one evening in an instant. While attending a party, a complete stranger walked up to him and gave him a hug. Mann says of that moment, “I felt like a King. It was the greatest thing that ever happened.”
This epiphany inspired Mann to make his now infamous cardboard sign that displayed the message; ‘Free Hugs’.
He first took his Free Hugs sign to the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney on the 30th of June, 2004. For fifteen minutes people walked passed him as if he wasn’t there. He got the occasional second look, but nobody was prepared to take him up on his offer. Finally, an old lady came up to him and gave him a hug.
Mann retells the moment the Free Hugs movement took flight; “The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one-year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.”
Since that first hug, Juan Mann has founded the Free Hugs Movement and inspired people to adopt his action around the world, handing out hugs to strangers in public places.
Shortly after that he befriended the lead singer of a local band who made a music video featuring Mann and his fellow huggers giving out hugs; to date the video has been viewed nearly 75million times! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4
He quickly gained notoriety and was invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006.
So, when you’re feeling down, now you know there’s a simple way to turn it around; just ask someone for a hug. It’s true what they say, the best things in life really are free.