The Power of Touch
In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health. (Dacher Keltner)
Humans are wired to be touched. From birth until the day we die, our need for physical contact remains. Being touch starved — also known as skin hunger or touch deprivation — occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things. (Healthline)
It’s been a little over a year since the covid virus forced us into isolation. We did what we had to do: worked from home, shopped online, zoomed or face-timed our meetings with colleagues, friends and family. Our screen time increased dramatically. Some of us focussed on home improvement projects, some on rereading the books filling our bookshelves, some cooked (and ate) more than we had “before.” We did what we could to cope with the fear, the anger, the stress.
Now we are being vaccinated and beginning to hope. I sat in the hospital waiting area for the necessary fifteen minute observation period following the first shot and, later, after the second shot. There were about six of us in the room (masked, socially distanced) and one woman started a group conversation when she said, “I just can’t wait to hug my grandchildren.” Everyone in the room, as it turned out, had someone they were longing to hug.
After those encounters I began to ask others what they most looked forward to once they had been vaccinated. Over and over the response has included being able to hug someone they care about.
I have been very fortunate during the past year: I do not live alone, but with a man who gives great hugs. My daughter is nearby and the three of us are a consistent “pod.” But my son and granddaughters are in another state, as are my brother, my cousins, and a few very dear friends. I’ve had the benefit of touch all along, but miss hugging those I can’t be with. I’ve had the good fortune to return to work in a safe environment and have the company of colleagues I value. But I still miss being able to give a hug, a touch on the arm, or a handshake to share joy, provide comfort, offer welcome.
It is not surprising, then, that much of the art I have created during the past year reflects that sorrow of separation and longing for connection.
I hope that you are able to hug the ones you love soon.
From left to right: Hidden; Hidden (detail); Longing
(For full articles from which the opening quotes were taken see “The Science of Touch” by Dacher Keltner, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research and “What Does It Mean To Be Touch Starved?” https://www.healthline.com/health/touch-starved)