This is the age of prescription drugs to cure or lessen the impact of illness.
But have you forgotten the magical power of a sincere hug? How it makes you aware someone actually does care for you? How your whole body and brain react with gratitude and warmth?
It’s become easier not to touch at all. But is that good for society? Could the simple caring magic of touch help in what seems to be an ever increasing scourge of folks with mental health problems?
Going pro with the magic of touch
There are doctors and doctors of course, and many of them today will actually just record what you’re saying as they type on their computers. At the end of this few minutes appointment you will undoubtedly end up with a typed prescription too.
Nurses, physiotherapists, massage practitioners simply could not do their jobs without using the touching required by their professions. Their patients benefit so much from the expertise and caring demonstrated that they’ll often describe it as magic.
How babies respond
The quality of touching in babyhood is so important it actually determines your resilience, happiness or sadness in the future. Your brain is busy forming who you will be, what interests you will have, how you will approach life in general. You don’t yet have the ability to analyze anything. You just get on with living; eating, sleeping, learning from life around you.
Teachers now try to be hands off
Teachers are warned not to touch students in any way, for fear of this being misconstrued. They are so terrified of being thought of as a weirdo,a pervert; they even practise hands off if a child needs a band aid to cover a wound, and instruct a child on how to do it themselves.
This hardly seems forgivable, even if it is understandable with the present day suspicion around demonstration of caring.
Parents and teachers talk about good touch and bad touch to their progeny and students. Bad touch is the one most emphasized. And now you don’t want to be thought of as a bad toucher, so you don’t offer those hugs that were once so easy to do. What if the child were to go home and report your good natured hug as something sinister? This is a litigious society.
Saddest of all, foster parents are advised not to have minimal touch with the children in their care - possibly some of the neediest-for-touch humans of all. Infants can actually die if they don’t receive loving touching. Kids of all ages treasure a shoulder squeeze, together with words of encouragement. Think of that touch being like an atta boy/girl exclamation mark!
Awakening to the need for touch magic
August 2018 depression stats from the World Health Organization reveal 300 million folks around the world have depression. In the United States 16.2 million adults ( 6.7% of all adults) have experienced major depression in the past year.
The relationship between societal caring touching, loneliness and depression is starting to affect so many people that even governments are now starting to sit up and take notice. The UK government now has a Minister of Loneliness.
Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychologist and author who has spent decades testifying as an expert witness on behalf of those in solitary confinement, has firm belief in the value of touch."Physical contact is a requirement of being human," says Kupers. "There's something healing about it. It [touch] is not just correlated with being human—it is being human."
A hug from a close friend isn’t only comforting, it also produces feel good hormones in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin – all of which help boost the immune system and ward off illness. But it does more than just make you feel good, according to this study it can also accurately communicate emotions like gratitude, love and sympathy.
Nothing quite defines our biological position as social animals more than the value and necessity of touching in order to feel complete. Its importance carries through at every stage of life, ending of course with the need for touch experienced by elderly folks, or those in the last stage of life.
Before you go hug-crazy...
Be respectful of others space
- There’s nothing wrong with asking a comparative stranger if you can give them a hug. You’ll usually find a delighted smile and willing acceptance of the offer. I’ve only ever had one woman absolutely refuse, and we’re still good friends.
Ease into touch gently
- Often just a gentle touch on the arm or shoulder can show you care.
Hand holding thoughts
- Hands are meant to be held at least once per day. There are numerous opportunities to achieve this. You just have to find them.
Tell me a story - but LOOK at me!
Where did it all go? You’ve outlived so many folks you relied on just to be there. They were your relatives, one, your child. You’ve outlived your money, and your physical abilities. The world is closing in about you. Now you have a little room, with just two of your things from long ago.
You have care, delivered by those who are paid to care. Their touching isn’t the same. You were a burden on your parents, so long ago, but their reassuring hugs and touches said “it’s okay, we love you”.
Now you have no one to help you through this final time in life. You feel like a burden on society. It’s not like when you entered the world. The exit is painful, not graceful. The touching you experience from paid caregivers is dispassionate. Your body is there just to be cleaned, and that is a chore.
You’re hoisted into a bath, and out again. That happens because nurses don’t want to hurt their backs. Everything is designed for minimal touch from others. They say it’s to preserve your dignity. It gets worse. They’ve all got these cellphones now, and you take second place.
You feel like like you’re in solitary confinement. And you are. Your peers sit in their wheelchairs too. Most of them don’t say much. Many just babble, cry or scream. Some, like you, are just quiet, and escape into their own thoughts. You never thought you’d end up this way.
Pay it forward - while you can!
Your eyes want to see others look into them.
Your ears want to hear a reasonable conversation just devoted to you, or even someone reading to you. That would be nice.
Your skin wants so much to feel the hand of another in your own. Even the touch of a gentle hand on your forehead would mean so much. Imagine if you could look forward to that - even just once a week. It’s taken until the end of your days to understand the magical importance of touch.
ShoutOuts this week.
A real nurse who rocks - and teaches the value of "hands on"!