Free Hugs

Societal Issue Targeted:  

  • Reducing the distance between people who haven’t met
  • Promoting healthy living and interactions


A hug is such a fantastically direct way to build connection and trust between people who haven’t met before!

Intro: Focallocal have been running Free Hugs at Trafalgar Square in the rain, snow and sun, every single month for over a 2 years now, in addition to the hundreds of other of these wonderful events our community have organised all over the World ..basically, we love Hugs!

With each Hug we bring society a little closer together, reminding people that there are many happy friendly people in this world who will give their time and energy just to make others smile ..and with the big news companies always focusing on the negative things people do it can be a much needed reminder that there are far more friendly people in this world and that there is no need to be suspicious or afraid of people they haven’t met yet! 

Please remember that its not a competition to collect the most hugs, and if you chase people around the streets for a hug it makes many people feel like they have just been sold a hug by a hug salesman, and also makes some passers-by uncomfortable – which is the absolute opposite of our mission. A hug means much more to someone if it was their choice to take it, by all means offer hugs to others, just please don’t be pushy – the project is about giving out hugs, not collecting ALL THE HUGS for yourself! 😉


  • I tend to offer a hug to people who smile when they see what i’m doing, as that’s a pretty good indicator that they like the Free Hug idea 😉

  • If you want to advertise it and invite more people, choose a specific meeting point that will be easy for attendees to find you, and carry your sign so they can see you.

  • Ask all attendees to bring their own signs. Some wont, but those that do often bring really artistic signs they’ve spent ages on.

  • Bring pens and paper and a ‘Join Us’ sign so people you meet can join in sharing the happiness too

  • Please write an article about your experiences and post lots of photo’s in our albums to share your experience with all of our community and inspire more people to go out and Hug!

  • Lots of passers-by ask why we are hugging. I tell them we are trying to bring people closer together, remind them that they live surrounded by positive, friendly people, and to spread happiness.

  • Please tell people about Focallocal, and invite them to join us at and together change the World!

  • Hug!

Background: Originally started by Juan Mann, an Australian guy on December 1 2004, when he was feeling lonely and was inspired by a hug from a random stranger. The act of  Hugging has been studied by the scientific community in depth and the general consensus among these studies is that hugging more often WILL improve your life quality. Hugging benefits your health, happiness and builds a stronger connection to your friends and family. Hugs can:


  1. Lower blood pressure. a decent length hug (6-12 secs) releases Oxytocin and as our levels rise, they interact with the hormones in our bodies which keep us alert for danger, allow our blood pressure to drop and helping us to relax and feel safe. Oxytocin also acts as a natural pain reliever so a hug really does scientifically make you feel better when you’re hurting.

  2. Reduces social anxiety. Oxytocin has been proven to makes people feel more optimistic, confident, trusting and relaxed. these are all good things so give the nearest person a good long hug right now!

  3. Helps you loose weight and keeps your heart healthy! a good hug (with feeling) reduces cortisol levels (our stress hormone). Too much Cortisol can lead to weight management issues and stress on your heart muscles.

  4. Stops you getting sick by releasing more white blood cells which strengthens your immune systems!

  5. Helps us to feel more connected to the people around us and acts like exercise for our empathy and caring for others.


That’s just five of the many scientifically proven reasons why hugging more will improve your daily life, and speaking from my personal experience a full day of hugging at our Free Hugs leaves me feeling very high on life and light headed in a really lovely way.

Also please come even if it makes you nervous fact, come especially if it makes you nervous! I grew up in a non-hugging culture and used to feel nervous about looking and feeling silly before running our Free Hugs, but i turned up with my sign anyway and reminded myself that i am here to give hugs to others who may need a little lift and friendly human interaction in their day. It can feel awkward at the start, but once you’ve got your first hug from a passer-by it’s just easy and fun – and now I am very much a hugging person in my daily life, and am happier and closer to my close friends because of it.

There’s no need to stress about numbers, I often begin the event alone or with just one or two people (as folk are always late), and have found t you get far more hugs with a smaller number of people.. maybe because people respect your bravery for getting up and offering something so lovely.

Legal Stuff (how it worked out for us)

This event is pretty hassle free in most places. There were 2 friends in Saudi Arabia who were arrested for un-Islamic behaviour, but they both courageously said they will risk the consequences and do it again anyway! I greatly respect their courage, to do something so simple because they believe in its purpose, and it is amazing to realise that something we see as harmless fun is a freedom of expression others have to fight for.

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