The Need To Be Touched

Most of us don’t put a lot of thought into this subject, but there is so much to learn from it.  We, as human beings, have a basic need to be touched. If anything, this pandemic has made us aware of just how much a handshake or hug can be missed. Have you missed doing these things? Have you felt isolated? Disconnected? I know that I have, sometimes.

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If you were raised in a family who openly showed affection, you are most likely a hugger. You hug family, friends, new acquaintances, etc. It is a social interaction that’s part of your daily life. If you were raised in a family who didn’t easily share affection (by that I mean often or at all), you may not particularly like hugging. You probably don’t even understand why some people are so open to affection. Yet, touch is a basic human interaction. An infant is soothed by it. An adult feels comfort, even joy, from it. And what they are feeling is real. It’s significant. Because we all need human touch — the decent, affectionate kind. It has the ability to relieve us of pain, fear, frustration, etc. It has the power to make us feel loved and appreciated. But how does something like a hug do all that?

According to researchers, we all have the ability to communicate many feelings through touch. It is a silent language that needs no words. A mother can cuddle her crying baby, in the night, and the message is clear. The infant knows he/she is secure and their crying ceases. A stranger can go into a natural disaster area and offer a hug to a distraught victim. Again, the message is clear — help has arrived. That compassion, even from a stranger, can be sensed. And it’s powerful. There is also a difference between a caring touch and an aggressive one. The two categories should never be confused. 

When we offer or receive a caring hug, oxytocin is released in our bodies. This is a “bonding” hormone. It has the ability to reduce stress, lower cortisol levels and increase our sense of trust/security. In fact, in a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, researchers discovered that women who received more hugs from their partners had lower heart rates and blood pressure. That’s healthy! A massage has the ability to relax the body, ease pain and melt away tension. That too is healthy! Even something as simple as eye contact and a pat on the back from a patient’s doctor may boost their survival rate, despite the complex disease they are fighting (University of California research). It may sound too good to be true, but science supports it.

Scientific research actually correlates physical touch with several things:

  • Decreased violence. Less touch as a child will lead to greater violence.
  • Greater Trust. Touch has the ability to bond individuals.
  • Decreased Disease & Stronger Immune Systems. In other words, a healthier you.
  • Greater Learning Engagement. When teachers touch students platonically, it encourages their learning. They are also more likely to speak-up in class.
  • More Non-Sexual Emotional Intimacy. Interpersonal touch has a powerful impact on our emotions.
  • Stronger Team Dynamics. We touch to initiate and sustain cooperation. Hugs and handshakes increase the chances that a person will treat you “like family”, even if you’ve just met. 
  • Economic Gain. Touch signals safety and trust, i.e. NBA teams whose players touch each other more, win more games.
  • Overall Well-being. Adults need positive human touch to thrive, i.e. hugs, handshakes, a pat on the arm or back, holding hands, cuddling, etc. It is fundamental to our physical, mental and emotional health.

Today, we are even seeing Touch Therapy being used to treat patients. First standardized in the 1970’s, scientists are not sure how this technique works. The popular theories are: a) Pain is stored in the body’s cells; b) Think quantum physics. Blood, which contains iron, flows through our bodies and creates an electromagnetic field; c) Good health requires a balanced flow of life energy. And there are many Chronic illnesses that respond to this treatment, i.e. Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Pain, etc.

Some of us are old enough to remember the social panic that AIDs initially created. People feared that it could be spread by even the simplest forms of human contact. Patients often suffered in near isolation. Until, one day, a certain princess visited an AIDs hospital … and held the hand of patient. No gloves. No mask. Just hand-to-hand touch. Thank you, Diana. You not only helped that patient, you changed the global perception of a disease.

Today, we are seeing healthcare professionals, i.e. doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc., hold the hands of COVID-19 patients to provide that needed human touch. At a time when family and friends are not allowed near these seriously ill patients, this is so important … to connect … to feel that someone is there for them … to help … to trust … to provide hope … and to heal.

One day, this pandemic will be behind us. We will hug, shake hands, etc., without giving it a second thought. Until then, it is safe to share hugs with any individual you are living/quarantined with.  We are all in need of human touch … of its power … its compassion … and its ability to literally make us feel better. Some are starved for that connection. So, stretch out your arms … reach for your partner, spouse, roommate, sibling, or pet. It’s time that we share a hug for our good health! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201309/why-we-all-need-touch-and-be-touched

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-surprising-psychological-value-of-human-touch/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research

https://www.in-mind.org/article/that-human-touch-that-means-so-much-exploring-the-tactile-dimension-of-social-life

https://theweek.com/articles/749384/painnumbing-power-human-touch

https://www.healthline.com/health/haphephobia#symptoms

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/treatment/therapeutic-touch

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-39490507/how-princess-diana-changed-attitudes-to-aids

https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2020/05/respiratory-therapists-give-covid-patients-human-touch

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/hugging-post-coronavirus.html

*Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

 

Sometimes, You Have To Bake Cookies …

Many years ago, my hubby told me that he always knew when I had a bout of Writer’s block. Apparently, in my frustration, I’d leave my home office … go into the kitchen … and proceed with a cooking/baking frenzy. At the time he first made this observation, I just laughed — dispensing it as nonsense. But in the years since, I’ve come to realize that he was right. I do get some sort of cathartic relief, when I cook or bake. And it isn’t necessarily caused by Writer’s block. The kitchen has somehow become my zen place.

 

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As odd as it may sound, there is medical research behind this. Studies have actually been done. When you cook or bake, you are creating … relaxing … destressing … spreading the love. You are experiencing fulfillment and satisfaction. Your body and mind is calming itself. If done with others, you are sharing quality time that strengthens any relationship. All positive. All healthy. All good.

In fact, cooking/baking is being used by many therapists and clinics as part of treatment for patients who live with a variety of mental and behavioral conditions, i.e. depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, stress, even some addictions.

We are living in crazy, chaotic times … nothing is as simple as it was just 4 months ago. Our lives, careers, expectations and work environments have changed. Learning environments have changed. There are added demands, frustrations and stress. None of us are immune. But we can explore new ways to deal with these challenges. 

Sometimes, you have to bake cookies … knead dough … chop vegetables … make a casserole. You have to step outside of your usual comfort zone and explore new things. You might even find that you enjoy it — a lot. It may comfort you as it has me. It may help you to cope. At the least, you may discover a new hobby or hidden talent. That’s not a bad thing. It could be a means of self-growth. And that’s positive, too.

I could go on, but there’s a recipe waiting … the oven is warm … and the kitchen is calling me. Need I say more?

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/feeling-down-scientists-say-cooking-and-baking-may-help-you-feel-better-180961223/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

https://www.mindfood.com/article/why-cooking-makes-happy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201505/kitchen-therapy-cooking-mental-well-being

https://www.calmmoment.com/mindfulness/how-mindful-baking-can-improve-your-mood-and-reduce-stress/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/12/baking-anxiety-millennials/578404/

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2020-04-13/how-to-relieve-stress-during-a-pandemic-quarantinebaking

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/baking-for-others-psychology_n_58dd0b85e4b0e6ac7092aaf8

*Photo by Madison Kaminiski on Unsplash

Wants & Needs: There Is A Difference

Nowadays, a lot of people seem to be confused by the meaning of “essentials”. They are assuming that “wants” and “needs” are the same thing. But, in reality, these things are very different. Our needs are necessary, i.e. shelter, food, water, air. Our wants are often materialistic desires, i.e. a designer handbag, a new set of golf clubs, new furniture, etc. As nice as these things are, they aren’t necessary for our survival. When we confuse our needs and wants, we can actually do more harm than good. Let’s talk about that …

 

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If you have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, you learn the difference between wants and needs pretty quickly. It’s how you effectively manage your illness. You may want that 16-ounce T-bone with a loaded baked potato, for dinner. But, as a diabetic, it’s not the best choice for you. Yes, you need to eat. But you don’t need to send your blood-sugar into outer space. See the difference? It’s important to think and choose, carefully.

If you are an asthma patient, you may want to indulge in a day of hiking. You want to enjoy the mountain scenery, the beauty of nature, etc. But, with asthma, you need to avoid outdoor exercise when pollen counts are high. Yes, you need exercise. So, pick an option that is safer to enjoy. Maybe, a treadmill? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some days, I want Reese’s peanut butter cups or Lindt truffles. And, depending upon my mood, it can really feel like a need. Medicinal chocolate? Sort of? The argument can be made that plain dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy. Unfortunately, no such data exists for pb cups or truffles. Damn. When you have a Chronic illness, you need your medication. You don’t need Broadway tickets. You may want them, but you don’t need them. You need healthcare coverage. That luxury cruise … it’s a want too. And we must place our needs before our wants.

Now, we have COVID-19 to think about. It has forced additional lifestyle changes on all of us. Avoid the urge to emotionally comfort yourself with online splurges, or unnecessary shopping trips. The expenses do add up and the risks are too great. Some can cause financial burden. Others can be life-threatening. Avoid the excess use of alcohol. It can lead to additional problems. If you are already living with alcoholism, the COVID-19 crisis can put your sobriety at risk. You don’t need that — turn to your Support Group instead. 

To those who are bored or lonely, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. Talk. Laugh. Send texts. Bond. Pull those nearly forgotten board-games out of the closet, dust them off and play. Watch your favorite DVD. Read a good book. Start a hobby, or return to an old one. Instead of stressing over the changes, or creating additional hardships, keep it simple. Focus on your needs. Because if you have these essentials, you have the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://study.com/academy/lesson/wants-vs-needs-in-psychology.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/therapy-in-mind/201208/key-happiness-focus-what-you-need-not-what-you-want

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkay/2017/03/21/finding-the-balance-between-needs-vs-wants/#5439926b4b11

https://psychcentral.com/blog/needs-vs-wants-american-style/

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

https://www.alcohol.org/resources/coronavirus-and-alcoholism/

*Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

 

All I Want …

Around this time of year, we often hear the dreamy wishes of young and old alike. Usually, these involve gifts (some more expensive than others) … travel … parties, etc. Hints are dropped … in texts … in emails … on Post-it notes, etc. To say, there are plenty of grand expectations is an understatement. But how important are these wishes? I wonder. People tend to take a lot for granted. Yet, now is the time we should all consider what we truly want — what we need. Life’s simple pleasures are far more priceless than they are given credit for being. Because these are the things that add true meaning to our lives. 

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Consider, for a moment, the popularity of a certain Christmas song. After 25 years, Mariah Carey has hit No. 1 on Billboard with “All I Want For Christmas Is You“. What resonates with fans? Is it an old favorite that stirs sentimental feelings? Or is it the simplicity of the message? Love.

As December and 2019 slips by, do some serious soul-searching. What are the things that are most important to you? For me, it’s my guys (husband, son & fur-baby). It’s their love that sustains me and encourages me. My faith, praise God, which has always lifted me. It’s good health, for me and my family. The ability to manage my Chronic illnesses. The joy of good friends, at the holidays and all year long. The quiet of our home, in the evening. The calm of flickering candles. Holding hands (even in church). Sharing a hug. Stealing a kiss under the mistletoe. The sheer peace of knowing, no matter what comes along, they have my back. And I have theirs. Some things cannot be bought. They must be felt. In this modern-age when our society seems all too willing to put a price on anything and everything, the simplest of pleasures are still the best. May each of you embrace yours.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/chart-beat/8546418/mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-you-number-one

*Photo by Tom Mossholder on Unsplash