The skin is the largest organ in the body. It has millions of touch receptors that send signals to the brain each time you touch something or somebody or they touch you. This exchange of information, especially when it involves another human, is accompanied by a neurochemical reaction within the body.
Unfortunately, there is also a different neurochemical reaction that takes place in the absence of touch. It’s an understatement to say that we like human connection, the truth is that we need it.
As much as we need human touch, it’s the one thing we all seem to be lacking. Between the initial stay-at-home orders and now the social distancing, most people are feeling the effects of touch deprivation. Some people have even expressed a sense of jealousy when seeing people touch in movies or on television shows.
That’s because touch is so vital to our ability to thrive.
The scientific argument for the necessity for touch has been proven in multiple research studies, including one where premature babies were massaged for 15 minutes a day, a practice that seemed foreign to the rules of neonatal ICU. This study found that the infants that had regular human contact with massage gained weight 47% faster with no change in nutritional supplementation.
These babies also had more advanced motor skills months later. This is in keeping with the studies that followed WWII where orphaned children, although clothed and fed, failed to thrive. Human touch is a basic necessity to growth and life.
For those that have lived alone during the pandemic, their risk for depression and even suicide is significantly increased. But, you don’t have to be living alone to be feeling as if something significant is missing in your life.
Research on adults shows that touch actually calms the body and brain, making us more compassionate. In a time where compassion is lacking and emotions are high, it could be said that the lack of touch is fueling the fire. Oxytocin, the feel good hormone that comes with touch, normally acts as a fire extinguisher when tempers flare.
While nothing can replace the need for human contact, whether it be a hug from a friend, a pat on the back from a co-worker, or a simple handshake, these tips may help keep your touch receptors busy while we all await the green light to normalcy.
– Take a warm bubble bath. The sensation of the bubbles will activate touch receptors all over the body.
– Place a blanket or towel in the dryer and then wrap yourself in it until it reaches room temperature again.
– Pet your cat or dog. If you don’t have one, consider getting a pet.
– Go out of your way to give those in your household some extra love taps. Giving a hug is beneficial to both the one giving it and the one receiving it
– Pick a night of the week and make it massage night. The massage will increase oxytocin levels, which in turn will improve mood and your relationship.
More Insight: Check out this great article on how to build daily happiness.