Will the ‘Mullum Hug’ Become Extinct?

Finding Connection Six-Feet Away

Back before the world turned into a sci-fi movie, back when I checked my look in the mirror each morning before I left the house for work (gasp), my office was based in a small town, in the small shire of Byron, on the East Coast of Australia. It’s called Mullumbimby, or simply ‘Mullum’ to the locals. It’s known as ‘the biggest little town in Australia’ and trust me, it is truly a place like no other.

Each day, I would sit at my desk, stare out the window and become fascinated with people-watching. From the cinema of my window, passers-by would sing loudly to themselves, dress like no one was looking and dance like no one was watching. Except, I was watching — It was better than anything on Netflix: the guy in a pirate hat and no shirt, the person in the giant furry onesie whose bare feet were all I could see from beneath the matted mass, the pink or purple suited poet in the large black cowboy hat … oh the hats and the hairstyles!

When I first moved to the Byron Shire from the humdrum of city life, I felt like I had fallen into an alternative reality (much like I do now). As the new COVID-19 universe is consumed with the fear of touching, the old Mullum universe was one where you feared being touched a little too much. This ‘heart-centred’ touching would take place in the shape of hugs, squeezes, long embraces. The exact definition of heart-centred in Mullum is a little fuzzy, but in the era when we could touch, it largely revolved around how long you could hold an embrace. The longer the embrace, the more heart-centred. The embrace with eye contact equalled double-connected-heart-centred.

A hug is always the right size! ~ Winnie the Pooh

This type of all-encompassing embrace is known around this area as the ‘Mullum Hug’. It does not take long for the Mullum Hug to catch on and become a normal part of life. And I’m sure this little town isn’t the only area where long hugs have culturally been embraced, afterall, it’s hard to deny the benefits: The boosting of the immune system; the reduction of stress, anxiety and fear; the sense of safety; the extra time to remember your hugger’s name. These are just a few of the bonuses of a long, solid, heart-to-heart hug.

At first, for this city mouse, these encounters felt more than a little awkward. But once I got accustomed to the embrace, comfort and beauty replaced the awkwardness. I relaxed into being held, tension released throughout my body, and a very human need for reciprocal connection was fulfilled.

Social Distancing and the Decline of the Mullum Hug

A month ago, if I ducked out to get a bite to eat on the streets of Mullum, I had to factor in hug time. But I haven’t experienced or seen a Mullum Hug in weeks. Maybe because I’m now locked alone in my house or maybe because the streets of the once eccentrically vibrant town are bare. Colourful outfits replaced with clinical face masks. People tentatively waving from across the road before hustling back into the safety of their homes. The Mullum Hug is now the Mullum Shrug. And I’m not ashamed to say I miss it terribly.

There is suddenly a gaping void in my life. I feel I have lost a precious possession I never knew I had. It’s like trying to recall a dream that is on the edge of your conscious memory, seeking out the matching sock that magically disappeared in the wash, or that change you know is jangling around in the depths of your bag yet keeps escaping as your hand flounders blindly for it. When I pass a friend on a walk or in the supermarket, a strong urge to reach out takes over me. I restrain myself. They restrain themselves. The interaction ends, and we sadly part ways, feeling unfulfilled, disconnected.

Surely this can’t be the new normal? Yet I wonder what the impact will be on human touch once this is all over. Will we simply click back into how we were? Will the Mullum Hug return with a vengeance, smothering and lingering for even longer? Or will we forever distance ourselves from physical connection with others? Will we sanitise pre hug? Will we adopt the awkward A-frame, butt out, back-patting hug?

Alt text hereWill we adopt the awkward A-frame, butt out, back-patting hug? Image: Alex Robert

We have all heard about the symptoms of COVID-19 and the possible long-term effects on our physical health. But what of the residual effects it could have on human contact and connection? Will a social recession ensue even after we are able to safely leave our homes and return to work?

Connection is so important to humans. However, as mental health writer Johann Hari reminded his followers in a recent social media post, we can be in the streets of a busy city, surrounded by people and still be lonely. “Loneliness is not the physical absence of other people,” Johann says. “Loneliness is the feeling you don’t share something meaningful with other people.”

Live-tweeting your bikini wax is not vulnerability. Nor is posting a blow-by-blow of your divorce. That’s an attempt to hot-wire connection. But you can’t cheat real connection. It’s built up slowly. It’s about trust and time. ~ Brene Brown

What is important in the absence of the Mullum Hug, and other forms of touch, is finding and creating meaning and connection with each other. Johann called people he hadn’t talked to for years, thanking them for their friendship and influence and seeing how they are doing in these strange times. In a world where many of us have become phobic of communicating in a form other than text, the faithful old phone call could be the vinyl of the future!

It is said that we should put love into hugs as well as love into words; so now we have double permission to verbalise and express our love and care. If phone calls aren’t your cup of tea, you can gift it, meme it, snap it, tiktok it, or go total old-school and write a letter… the possibilities seem endless, as long as you stay six-feet away.

In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Alt text hereThe possibilities for connection are endless. Image: Adam Kring

And once all this is over and we tentatively step out our front doors and into normal life (whatever that may look like for each of us), let’s remember to continue to reach out — to connect in however we feel comfortable. Let’s remember all the simultaneous clappings of gratitude we have witnessed all over the world. Let’s not take hugs and cuddles and proximity for granted. Let’s celebrate our choices and liberties. Let’s count our blessings over and over again. Let’s make a promise to look for gratitude in things we never even used to think about: toilet rolls, fresh air, human contact, and smiling faces.

Perhaps we will all find deeper meaning in how we forge and maintain Contact, Connection, and Love. Perhaps it isn’t a social recession we will see, rather a deeper connection on an emotional and spiritual level. A profound intimacy (in-to-me-you-see)


Moving forward in my own life, I will be making sure connection comes in more than just a physical sense and I’m excited to see how my relationships with those around me form far-reaching roots in all directions of connection. How do you think social-distancing will affect your relationships and interactions once the all-clear is given? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Sending you all a tight vibrational squeeze filled with the frequency of Love,

Ashleigh and Team Uplift

BY Ashleigh Wilson



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kamir bouchareb st
4 years ago

very good thank you

4 years ago

I know I will go back to hugging my friends and family. All the social distancing and isolation has suppressed our immune systems. We need that human touch to keep our positive energy flowing and keep us strong. Even Louis Pasteur said on his death bed, “Bernard was correct. I was wrong. The microbe (germ) is nothing. The terrain (milieu) is everything.” What a sad depression this world would fall into if we kept things the way they are. That’s not human. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been wanting to write an article on this very thing.

4 years ago

Having visited Mullum on a couple of occasions and fallen in love with the place, I recognise it from your beautifully written and heartfelt description. I follow Uplift and am often inspired by your contributions. Raising awareness of the power and reality of energetic connection is vital in these times. I am writing at daybreak in my chilly suburban garden in South Aussie and send deep gratitude to you and your team

4 years ago

Wonderful and uplifting. Keep giving as a way of connecting. Whatever you can. A kind word. A joyous hello when you must go out. Letters for sure. I desperately miss hugging and so I infuse my verbal interactions with hugging intention.

Jacqueline Boustany
4 years ago

Time to feel in to your own truth. Sure respect for others is paramount and I always ask first but hug is a part of my being. It is a risk benefit equation and in the northern Rivers at the moment the risk is close to zero. We are experiencing the environmental karma of our past choices to be here. Also want to confuse the 3D version of reality where THEY can only pinpoint an individual for assessment at 1.5m! we are higher dimensional beings being asked what is our higher truth. xx

Mary Blues
4 years ago

Human rights are part of who we are and nothing from outside can impose or stop us from being human. If we are awake we can see manipulation and boy has it been huge. Nothing and no one will stop me from connecting and embracing my rights as a human being. To stop that would be like becoming a shell of myself and I will NEVER allow that. I am free I am me

4 years ago

I go on like before. Nothing changed for me: I go out and meet and hug friends. This is all man-made. A simple flue. My imunsystem is very strong and I am healthy. Death belongs to life; thats one and the same thing. Go in the trust and live/love on. Felix from germany.

4 years ago

What if….
the virus was as dangerous as other viruses before and we were cheated….
we would leave the fear behind….
we would just hug….
Love is always the answer…

Carol Kandiko
4 years ago

How very much I miss my hugs! you’ve described it so well. I pray that we will hugs again, and that I will be open to whatever new forms this energizing connection takes!

Britta Geissler
4 years ago

What a beautiful article. I am a hug-aholic and that is my feel good way of coping, all around.
Unfortunately I have partner who doesn’t seem to understand how important hugs and verbal communication is as proof given by her having just dumped me. Thankfully I have three main friends I know how important it is to get hugged and reciprocating for emotional support.
I wish I could live in your little town because I would be a good addition to it.
I am an awesome hugger.
Thank you for sharing.

Marie Paule
4 years ago

This is a lovely and loving article and made me deeply smile … Love always finds a way of settling into our everyday,making it lighter and feeding us laughter on the way …
Much love and hugs !
From a huggy buddy

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