The other night, my wife and I were cleaning up after dinner. And after all the dishes were put up in the washer, the leftovers put away into the refrigerator, counters wiped down, we just stood there in the middle of our kitchen and hugged each other. We held that hug for several minutes. And afterwards, she said, “I need more of that.”
In fact, we all do. We crave touch from the very moment we are born. We learn through touch. It’s where we first develop feelings of attachment and self-esteem. The act of receiving nurturing touch makes us feel safe; it comforts us, and lets us know that we are loved.
Unfortunately, in America, we seem to be very uncomfortable with touch. I am not for a minute suggesting that we abandon our personal boundaries, but we don’t have to always apologize when we accidentally intrude upon another persons “space.” Consider how touch is used in other parts of the world. Throughout Europe, it is common for women to walk down the street arm-in-arm. In many parts of the world, men and women alike exchange a kiss on both cheeks as the common form of greeting. In Greece it is common for men to dance, arm-in-arm (and it’s not just induced by too much Ouzo!).
Sadly here in the US, we restrict our hugs to that “all-American A-frame,” bent over at the waist, touching only the upper parts of our bodies. And what about those “air kisses?” What’s that all about? Touch connects us to our own humanity, and nurturing touch improves our well-being. Consider this:
A study was conducted at a major university library. Librarians were instructed alternately to touch and not touch the hands of students as they handed back their library cards. Then the students were interviewed. Those who had been touched reported far greater positive feelings about themselves, the library, and the librarians than those who had not been touched. This occurred even though the touch was fleeting and the students didn't even remember it.
According to Adoption.com, studies conducted in orphanages and hospitals tell us that infants deprived of skin contact will lose weight, become ill, and may even die. Premature babies given periods of touch therapy gain weight faster, cry less, and show more signs of relaxed pulse, respiration rate and muscle tension.
Marriage and family counselors report that that couples in crisis are most likely to have stopped the simple everyday kind of touch that is crucial to a healthy relationship. I am not talking about sexual contact. I’m talking about simple hugs, a caress – soft, loving, nurturing touch that we all so desperately need and want.
The Need for Touch – Why Touch is Important in our Lives
As we grow older, we receive less and less touch. We have rationalized that touch is no longer important. We’re adults now. We’re supposed to be tough. Sadly, we may come to associate touch exclusively with sexuality, and we forget that as adults we still need touch as much as we did when we were children. Unfortunately, the elderly are the least touched group in our society. They receive less touch because they are more likely to be living alone.
Simple, loving, human touch can:
o Reduce anxiety and stress
o Promote peace of mind
o Improve our focus and promote a state of mental alertness
o Enhance our ability to think creatively but calmly
o Promote a feeling of being cared for and nurtured
o Help fight off disease by stimulating the immune system
o Improve our sense of body image
So I ask you to look for ways to increase the amount of touch in your life. How? Here are a few ideas.
How have I increased touch in my life? Every morning, before my wife leaves to go to her office, I give her a hug. We hold the hug to a count of 100. Or more. It’s the best part of my day.
Hugs and nurturing touch to you all,
p.s. Pinkies - please send extra warmth and love to Fred today as he offers Reiki healings at a conference for victims of clergy abuse. Know that you're surrounded by Pink energy today, Fred, as you provide safety and wholeness to many who need it.
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