The hug giver

Gloria Alvino heals with hugs and other ‘alternative medicine’

Created date

October 24th, 2019
Gloria Alvino runs the Heart to Heart Healing Circle at Linden Ponds, which focuses on self-healing techniques.

Gloria Alvino runs the Heart to Heart Healing Circle at Linden Ponds, which focuses on self-healing techniques.

Gloria Alvino has a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a master’s degree in health and human services, and she previously operated three pharmacies and a surgical supply company. However, much of her life’s work has focused on helping people heal not with prescription drugs or hospitals but by using methods such as meditation and healing touch.

“I build bridges between science and spirituality, between Eastern and Western medicine,” she says. “I provide inspiration and motivation for people to experience their own full potential. I like to give them the tools to help themselves.”

In the early 1990s, Gloria left her career in the pharmaceutical industry and founded a nonprofit called Heart to Heart Associates, through which she taught continuing education courses for health care professionals and patients on personal development, empowerment, integrative medicine, and optimal health. 

She points out that many things considered alternative medicine in the U.S. have been practiced for centuries by indigenous people, providing what she believes is ample evidence that they work.

“We’re electromagnetic beings,” Gloria says. “We all have the ability to heal ourselves and to heal other people.”

Gloria explains that even conventional pharmaceuticals used to be much more natural than they are today. When you think about it that way, alternative medicine and ideas like using herbs for healing don’t seem that unusual.

“When I first studied pharmacy, we were making most medicines from herbs,” Gloria says. “When the pharmaceutical companies were looking for better ways to make more money, they started synthesizing the active constituents instead of using the whole leaf. Then they could name it and get patent rights and advertise it as being superior. That drove me out of pharmacy, because I went into it thinking it would be a way to help people.”

Healing energy

Now that she is retired and living at Linden Ponds, Erickson Living’s community in Hingham, Mass., Gloria shares her passion for healing with her neighbors. She runs a group called Heart to Heart Healing Circle, which meets once a month. 

At the meetings, Gloria provides a variety of information on nontraditional forms of healing, depending on the needs and interests of the group. One month, she might talk about using salves with CBD oil, and another month, she might focus on the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

“Recently, they asked me about drugs and pharmacies, so I did an outline going back to the origins of the German chemical company Bayer and, going forward, showing all the connections and how we went from natural products to synthetic products in pharmacies,” Gloria says.

Gloria does hands-on healing at the meetings, which could be as simple as giving a neighbor a healing hug. She also teaches the people who come to her Heart to Heart Healing Circle to do self-healing through practices such as Qigong, a gentle form of exercise that involves stretching and breathing, and heart-brain coherence, the practice of cultivating positive emotions to steady your heart rhythm, which in turn sends signals to the brain. 

“One set of pages that I hand out to the group shows tapping on different acupuncture points to move the energy in your body to balance energy in your body,” Gloria says. “It costs nothing, no side effects, takes only a few minutes, and it activates your body. We have to be in balance with the earth, and the earth’s frequency vibration has been changing. Our bodies always have to be in harmony with the energy of the earth.”

Gloria says about 30 people typically attend the Heart to Heart Healing Circle meetings. She wants to help as many people as possible, so she has opened the group to staff members as well as guests of residents.

“In general, they all say they feel better after,” Gloria says. “In class, I tell them they can just put their hand up and I will give them a healing hug. They say that it really helps. I get a lot of good feedback and notes.”

Harmonious and happy

Gloria moved to Linden Ponds with her now-late sister in 2008. She says she was looking for a retirement community where she could be active and also get the support services she might need as she got older. When she visited Linden Ponds, she felt drawn to the community. 

“When we first drove in, I said, ‘I could live here; I get the same vibration as I do at the arboretum in Jamaica Plain,’” Gloria says. “The air and the proximity to the ocean—it’s a very peaceful and harmonious place to live.”

One of the reasons Gloria finds Linden Ponds so peaceful is the large number of trees and bushes growing on the grounds. She says the greenery complements the natural landscape.

“[Erickson’s founder] had a vision, and he did very well completing his mission. The people hired to do the grounds didn’t sacrifice the earth; they worked with it,” Gloria says. “Vibrationally, he made this a very healthy place to be.”

Gloria has found many outlets for her interests and hobbies at Linden Ponds. She writes for the resident newsletter Life at Linden Ponds, is a crew member for the in-house TV station, and is active on the diversity and inclusion committee. 

She also enjoys writing poetry and taking photographs, usually nature shots or close-ups of people. She shares her art with her neighbors by showcasing her photos and poems in a large digital frame outside the TV studio. 

But Gloria says she’s never too busy to use her healing touch to help a neighbor in need. 

“My ministry is in the hallway,” she says. “It gives me great joy whenever someone calls me or stops me in the hallway and says, ‘I need a hug.’”