Why we should touch more.
More than ever before it can feel as if we just aren’t allowed to touch people, and yet touch is one of the most important senses we have. In today’s world people are connecting more and more remotely and we just don’t feel it appropriate to just reach out to friends with a big hug, a pat on the back or a squeeze of the arm.
These invisible barriers do serve some purposes. Of course, we do want to feel safe and if someone intrudes into our personal space we can feel uncomfortable and ill-at-ease. Our first thoughts might be, “what are they doing? What do they mean by touching me?” And, I’m not talking about intimate touch here, but just general touching that may occur in the workplace or during socialising.
Even the word “touching” is made to feel somehow wrong because we’ve been spoon fed stories in the media about abuse for so long. We are quick to jump to conclusions that everyone is a sex fiend or a paedophile and that there are ulterior motives behind every potential contact.
Studies have shown the devastating effects of children left in orphanages with very little care and attention, highlighting how in these situations babies fail to thrive. This can have a serious impact on their development, both socially and physically. Children who aren’t shown affection are also more likely to grow up to become aggressive adults.
As adults we all still need to experience touch. Regular hugging is proven to decrease stress and anxiety and to help lower blood pressure. By sharing a little physical contact with those around us, whether it’s a clasp, a hug, a pat on the back or a simple squeeze or handshake, we build social connections that are important for our wellbeing.
Next time you watch footballers embracing each other on the pitch after a successful goal, it’s worth noting that some research suggests that sports teams who touch each other, whether it’s a high five, a hug or a playful squeeze, perform better.
Our skin is the biggest organ of our bodies, covered with nerve endings and sensory receptors so that we can make sense of our external environments. We feel pain, pressure, temperature and pleasure through touch.
All social animals enjoy grooming and being caressed. Who doesn’t love a good massage or a back rub? When we experience physical contact with someone our bodies release hormones, such as oxytocin, which helps to promote feelings of trust and connection within our group. Endorphins are also released, aiding the reduction of any pain or stress we might be feeling. It’s natures way of ensuring we make social attachments and stay within our “herd” or “pack”, where we can feel safe and protected from threats. This allows us to enjoy a sense of wellbeing that’s very necessary for us to thrive as human beings.
Now we’ve talked about it, let’s do it! Make today the day you gently embrace, hug, pat, squeeze, massage, caress, hold or otherwise touch some of the people in your life.