The Need to Be Touched - Relationships During a Pandemic

Michael Loren

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A pat on the back, a handshake, or even a high five. They’re all reassuring gestures that have now all but gone away. For obvious reasons, during this pandemic, we’ve all mostly stopped touching people that don’t live with us. But, can this lack of touch have long term effects on our mental health?

The physical act of touching other people has been proven to assuage cardiovascular stress, to provide a sense of calm and security, and to spark the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which makes us feel both rewarded and that another human has empathy for our situation. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like exactly what I need right now.

Sure, people that are lucky enough to live with a spouse or children are likely getting their daily touch bucket filled up. But, what about single people around the world? Or anyone that does not have another person close enough to them that they can touch or from whom they can receive touch? Will that cause long-term (or even immediate) effects?

If physical touch moderates our feelings of stress and overall makes us feel happier, what happens if we don’t receive it for a period of time? Well, not good things. Physical touch can affect the body in many ways including reducing cortisolwhich can, in turn, save cells that kill bacterial, viral, and cancer cells. Wait. CANCER?!? Yes. Not directly, but the lower your cortisol, the better chances you have of fending it off.

We don’t think of touch as a necessity, but physiologically, it’s pretty important. It’s even been proven to have significant effects on children. Doctors Evan L Ardiel and Catharine H Rankin say, “Touch has emerged as an important modality for the facilitation of growth and development”.

If you’re a Christian, you’ll also note that Jesus is documented as healing people by touching them. If you believe the bible and that this was the son of God, couldn’t the healing have been done with just the wave of a hand? Probably. But touch was the chosen method of delivery.

In any religion, though, touch = compassion. And, right now, more than any time in recent history, we all need as much compassion as we can get.

I don’t have an answer as to how you should fill your daily touch quotient, but I encourage you to, if you are one of the lucky people to have people in your life to whom you are close . . . reach out and touch them. It will make you and them feel a little bit better.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA
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