And how touch deprivation affects us
Touch is the first since we develop, it’s our first language. When babies are born we recognise the importance of skin to skin contact and we massaged them and understand that this physical touch time is good for both them and us. We cuddle them when they hurt themselves and hold hands walking down the street.
But somewhere along the line we decide that too much touch is a bad thing, especially in our touch phobic society. We occasionally hug our friends and cuddle with our partners on the sofa. But if you live alone this might not happen very often. And as we get older, when our partners pass and our children grow up, and we live alone again, The opportunities for touch become less and less.
We are hardwired for touch. A study by mind.org.uk of the impact of the pandemic has had her on her mental health stated that “Loneliness has been a key contributor to poor mental health. Feelings of loneliness have made nearly 2/3 of people’s mental health worse” and “more than half of adults (60%) And over 2/3 of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown.”
This past year has taught us a lot about what we really do and don’t need, and one main lesson I’ve learnt is that despite having never been more able to connect with so many people, I live in my body, and I crave physical contact. And I’m not the only one.
During my training in oncology adapted massage, I learned that cancer patients had reported reduced motivational and emotional fatigue, depression and anxiety scores. Not only that, but there was a significant reduction in pain intensity, pulse rate and respiratory rate. These benefits aren’t exclusive to cancer patients, or massage recipients. People with dementia are less prone to depression and irritability if they are hugged and stroked.
The thing about touch is that you can’t touch without being touched, so lots of the benefits are shared between both people. So will you consider a hand on the shoulder or touching the hand of someone you care about when restrictions are lifted? Or have you noticed any changes in yourself due to touch deprivation this year?
Would you say you and your family are tactile? Let me know in the comments.