Sometimes, people are so trained to keep their feelings to themselves, they forget how to share feelings with others – or allow others to share their feelings with them.
Last fall, Hussain Manawer, who himself had a history of depression, conducted The Oxford Street Experiment, where he hugged strangers in the streets in London to let them know they were not alone.
The Oxford Street Hug Experiment
“I found a piece of cardboard and wrote ‘if you’ve suffered from depression or anxiety, hug me’ on it, got a blindfold, left my home and boarded the central line and headed to England’s most popular shopping destination – Oxford Street,” he explained in an essay on Metro UK.
It was there that Manawer set up a camera and was approached within minutes, and the hugs started to roll in: “With one of my senses blindfolded, my ears were on full alert and I embraced the words of comfort from a magnitude of different voices,” he said.
One person who approached him for a hug said: “I was going to do something really bad to myself today, and then I saw you, I’m so glad you understand.”
Reflecting on the outcome of the experiment, Manawer said: “I learnt that we are all walking down the same road, traveling at different speeds at the same time, experiencing similar things in lots of different ways. I learnt that we must as a society must come together and help each other through hardships.”
Manawer took away a big message that day:
The art of listening to another person and appreciating that none of us really know what anyone else is going through. That’s why it’s so important to be kind and loving to everyone, always.
“That day taught me so much. I received so much love and found so much strength in my vulnerability and the vulnerability of the people who approached me,” he said. “When I watched the video back, I was so speechless. I genuinely couldn’t believe it… you don’t need to be a genius or an expert to change someone’s life, you just need to do it. We will all experience mental health struggles at one point – if not multiple times.”