Sassy Says: The Science of Human Contact

Written by on September 27, 2020

Earlier this year, we were all thrown into a new routine. Every person was given a new normal whether they liked it or not. The introduction of masks, hand sanitizer, grocery pick-ups and altered school schedules are just to name a few. Then there is a six-foot rule. Social distancing is the term they use. To keep things safe, people are asked not to hug, embrace, dance, shake hands or “touch” anyone. Affection or congeniality has been reduced to just a wave or elbow bump. Oh, and a warm smile …. that no one can see behind a masked and fogged glasses.

Since these new rules have gone into effect, there is one thing that is seriously missing from society now: the human touch. Media has made it clear that it is proven close contact with others can pass this virus around lickity-split. So, the farther apart we are, the healthier we can stay. I get that. But what about the physical touch we can no longer exchange? A handshake to show someone you are true to your word. A hug because you haven’t seen a friend in four months. It is missed—terribly—because it is necessary.

Lack of human contact cannot be blamed completely on a foreign-born virus, however. A study done by the Miami Miller School of Medicine two years ago gave us some important information about human contact. First and foremost, there was no pandemic going on during the study. Observances were made at a major airport. So why were the majority of people observed not interacting with each other? People weren’t touching each other because almost everyone was on their phone. Being on your phone creates an immediate social distance without words even being said. So, I am sorry to say, that is on us. Plain and simple. But now, let’s add to that a virus that we are told is spread through close human interaction. We have been instructed to “stay back” a safe distance. At least six feet. This to keep people healthy. But how healthy? We are happy to be helping curve the virus, but the process is actually hurting us in other ways.

The MMS research found that the art of massage increases the strength of front line “killer cells” that handle the viral and bacterial cells. This was also found in participants recovering from more serious diseases such as breast cancer. The massage techniques knock down cortisol levels which is the body’s stress hormone. If doctors can reduce stress and stress hormones, we can save more killer cells. The more antibodies we can save or produce, the less likely we are to get sick.

Other tests have been done in regard to touch deprivation or skin hunger as it is sometimes known as. In the 1940’s a test was conducted to see how newborns in a “sterile” environment compared to those in a regular, interactive environment. No results were stated because the test had to be discontinued, due to horrid and tragic results with subjects in the sterile state. It did however show the vital importance of affection and touch early in life. To raise a healthy (physically and mentally) child, the importance of the human touch is unmeasurable.

The question now becomes this: are you suffering from touch deprivation? Here are seven signs, thanks to the Touch Research Institute, that can indicate you are suffering from skin hunger

Aggressive Behavior – When people can interact with simple touch and affection, their empathy increases, and violent behaviors go down.

Body Image Issues – Many have heard the term “COVID 15” by now. It refers to the extra pounds many put on when shutdown first occurred. Overeating can occur when it is used as a way to fill an inner void that has come about through a lack of affection.

High Stress Levels – When the touch receptors under our skin are stimulated, it can help reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure, which therefore reduces stress. Conversely, when we are experiencing stress and lack touch, it may be difficult to unwind.

Loneliness – We can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely. This can be from not knowing anyone, lack of self-confidence, etc. It can also be from lack of touch. Things that indicate this can be the frequency of taking warm showers, wrapping up tightly in blankets or clinging to a favorite pillow, blanket or pet often.

Depression – Mood fluctuations are a definite indicator of lack of touch. People can also go from a very exhilarating behavior to tears in an instant. (Sometimes this is mistaken as the symptoms associated with being bipolar.)

Often, the longing for the feeling for human touch happens because we associate it with fond memories. Try to replicate this positive feeling by focusing on our other senses. Try focusing on memories that takes you back to a time when you felt hopeful and connected to others. Where were you? Who was with you? What was the scene like—colors, scents, textures? What were you feeling at the time? This is a handy technique because it can be done anytime, anywhere. And do not forget to stay connected with close friends and relatives who live close by. If you follow suggested protocol, hopefully you can discuss a way to safely spend some time with those you love… and if you both agree, cautiously hug the stuffing out of them!

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