Friends, we are in really big trouble! Many months into a pandemic, we are all missing an essential part of our human connectedness. Scientists tell us that human beings are wired to find touch not just pleasurable but fundamentally healthful and nourishing. Humans need touch just as we need food and air to breath. But to be safe right now, we have had to go without touch beyond our small bubbles, and this distance quite literally hurts. Skin hunger is real!
Professor Tiffany Field of the University of Miami School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute notes, “It’s very painful for older people not to be able to hug their grandchildren." Field said she’s worried about the effects of touch deprivation on both older and younger people, and hopes those who are living safely within the same bubble will put down their phones, reach out and touch one another.
Hugging “is such an intensive greeting, it really sets off an emotional cascade,” Larry Sherman, a neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland said. “The pressing of skin on skin, the prolonged interaction — it sets off all the things that relieve stress and promote bonding.” (https://www.columbian.com/news/2020/nov/29/many-in-clark-county-missing-the-miracle-of-touch/)
Here are some ways to experience the health benefits of touch
even during this time of social distancing:
If you live alone or just don’t get much human touch, these techniques will satisfying your itchy nervous system.
• Wash your hands. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing frequently anyway, and it’s satisfyingly nerve-stimulating. Follow-up with some lotion for an extra nice touch.
• Self-massage. Press firmly with your own hands or use a tennis ball.
• A good scrubbing. With a sponge or loofah, scrub your whole self in the bath or shower.
• Stretching, yoga, exercise. Moving your body fires up many of the same systems and chemicals that cause pleasure and satisfy the need for stimulation. Lie on the floor, bring your knees to your chest, and roll back and forth. You are stimulating those pressure receptors.
• Connect with people in other ways. Video chat isn’t the same as a hug, but seeing the faces and hearing the voices of friends and loved ones can still flood your system with positive feelings.
• Touch stuff, indoors and outside. Seek out different-textured things to touch inside your home, out in the yard, around your neighborhood.
And if you must take the risk
here are some examples of safer forms of hugging: