Free hugs were given by the Project Humanity group on April 21, 2015 at the Memorial Union in Tempe.
By Aimee Plante
Students walking through Cady Mall were met with colorful signs promoting love and kindness followed by a warm embrace Tuesday as Project Humanities volunteers hosted a free hug session, just in time for the stress of finals week.
Project Humanities planned Free Hug Day as part of their kindness initiative, which includes a Humanities 101 pledge for values like compassion and respect. Sharon Torres, the organization’s coordinator, said kindness can get people through a bad day.
“We are trying to offer some happiness for people who are going through a tough time,” she said. “It may be through stress, family or schoolwork, and we hope that us being out there to greet people with a smile can help them.”
National Hugging Day took place Jan. 21, which Torres said was too early for Project Humanities to organize an official date at ASU.
However, despite the event's timing, Torres said Free Hug Day can also offer help during finals week.
“We’re always looking for creative and low-budget ways to spread our message,” she said. “I think that is it a bonus that we are doing this at the end of the semester, when stress levels are high.”
Torres said a hug can promote other supportive actions.
“This really brings people together to connect with each other,” she said. “Hopefully people will spend a few moments talking with each other, and that is really the overall goal of Project Humanities: bringing people together to talk about things.”
Biomedical engineering graduate student Yashwanth Nanda Kumar, Project Humanities’ web developer, said he volunteered after the organization helped him reach out to other students.
“I’m an engineer, so you can already see that contrast,” he said. “But everyone is human, and you can’t separate science from humanities. … Project Humanities has given me an opportunity to talk to people as an Indian and meet people from other regions.”
Secondary education freshman Abigail Graham, Project Humanities’ communications coordinator, said brain chemistry makes hugging feel good.
“It’s like a psychological thing,” she said. “Hugging and human contact releases endorphins in your brain and set you off to be happier. If you get a hug, even if it’s from a stranger, a loved one or anyone, that human contact is going to give you a happier day.”
Hugging someone may incite more acts of kindness on campus, Graham said.
“It’s going to make you want to make other people happy too because kindness is contagious,” she said. “If you’re happier, you’re going to give that fruit of being happy and make other people happy.”
Graham said Free Hug Day offers a smooth introduction to Project Humanities' upcoming Business of Kindness event, which will explore the marketing strategies of local businesses who incorporate kindness into their business model.
Because people can incorporate kindness into their professional lives, Graham said hugging isn’t the only option.
“You don’t even have to give someone a hug,” she said. “You can do something for anyone. It can be a hug, a smile, saying thank you or holding the door. Anything like that is a good thing to share with others.”
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