As the United States marks the one-year anniversary since its first coronavirus case this month, we're reminded how long it's been since we've been able to hug our loved ones.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many are missing those heartwarming embraces – so much so that people have tried making homemade "hugging stations" where a protective plastic barrier separated them from their family and friends.
It's clear that many of us are craving those stress-reducing squeezes. So in celebration of National Hugging Day on Thursday, we've rounded up some safe, feel-good hug alternatives you can do on your own.
Try some tea
Instead of a hug, brew yourself a steaming cup of comfort with your favorite coffee or tea. If you're wanting some extra calming power, try a caffeine-free herbal tea with flavors of chamomile, spearmint or lemongrass for anxiety-reducing effects like hugs can provide.
Wash off the day – and your stress – with a warm bath. Moments of self-care like a luxurious bath at the end of a long day is the perfect way to give yourself a sort of "hug." Make bath time extra special with bath bombs infused with calming essential oils or a good book to keep you company.
If you want to feel like you're being hugged and cuddled all at once, try a weighted blanket. These heavier-than-usual blankets have gained popularity in the past few years since laying them over yourself mimics the feeling of a hug or being held and, in turn, may calm the nervous system.
Give your mind a hug with some guided meditation. With mental health challenges prompted by the pandemic, meditation apps have been on the rise and can help you find the calmness you may experience with hugs. Looking for something more physical? Amp up your meditation with some stretching or yoga, with some poses even including self-holding or hugging elements.
Get in the spirit
The holidays may be over, but that doesn't mean you have to take your decorations down. Psychology experts say holiday decorations can bring on feelings of joy for those who connect them to happy memories, so if that's the feeling you're missing, we won't judge you for stringing some lights in your living room mid-January!
Lean on your pets
We may not be able to hug on our human loved ones, but we can hug our pets. Research shows owning a pet can help combat health concerns around loneliness, so go ahead and give (and get) some extra love from your furry family members whenever you're feeling isolated at home.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: National Hugging Day: Safe, feel-good hug alternatives amid COVID-19