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Ryant Taylor gives a free hug to Sam Kissenger. Taylor and friends stood outside Baker University Center all afternoon on Thursday offering free hugs to anyone who walked by (Arielle Berger | For The Post).

OU students embrace V-Day with free hugs

Students who didn’t have a sweetheart this Valentine’s Day still got a chance to get in on the love.

Ryant Taylor, a sophomore studying creative writing, along with several other students, stood outside Baker University Center on Thursday with a sign and a promise for “free hugs.”

Taylor said he saw people on the Internet doing the same thing, which inspired him as he felt it was something students needed to experience.

“To me, it seems to be all about sending out positivity,” Taylor said. “When you’re in the middle of a long day or just found out some bad news, what more do you need than a big hug? It’s about connection, being in a world that’s bigger than you, trying to find ways to break down walls, and make people smile.”

While Taylor said he had wanted to create the event for a while, he decided that Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity.

“There’s lots of people walking around feeling lonely, lots of people with significant others who have plans,” he said. “It’s a strange day because it kind of throws the whole love thing in your face and if you’re not with someone, it can be disappointing.”

Taylor might use free hugs to get others out of a funk on the holiday, but recent studies suggest that hugs can have a great healing effect.

A brief hug can greatly reduce the harmful physical effects of stress, according to a study by the American Psychosomatic Society. A study by The University of North Carolina also found that hugs increased levels of oxytocin and reduced blood pressure.

The studies’ findings and the overall positivity of the event are what drew Caitlyn McDaniel, a sophomore studying international studies, to join Taylor.

“I decided to join because everybody needs hugs, especially on days like this,” she said. “(On Valentine’s Day) people feel a potent loneliness ... Plus, it’s an excuse to hug random strangers.”

The “random strangers” seemed to enjoy being hugged as well, according to Hayley Smith, another participant and a sophomore studying commercial photography.

“I think people appreciate that we’re spreading the joy and love, especially on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Of course, you’re always going to have people who refuse, but generally the reaction has been positive.”

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