A year without hugging- Does it affect us and how?
25 Feb 2021 | Anne Marie Fogarty
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Key Reasons We Need Physical Contact Regularly
If there’s one thing a global pandemic can highlight, it’s the importance of physical touch and contact with others.
The vast majority of you reading this article today will likely have spent the best part of the last year in and out of lockdowns, social distancing, in quarantine, in isolation, and away from your friends, families, loved ones, and people in general.
Now, we understand that some people are more social than others. While some of you will crave the company of other people, others will likely enjoy your own company and will generally not consider yourselves to be a “people person”. Despite this, though, a lack of physical contact with others, such as hugging, for example, can be detrimental to our physical and mental well-being.
Here’s a look at several key reasons why we need physical contact daily.
How does physical contact help us?
One of the main benefits of regular physical contact is the fact that physical contact with other people has been found to stimulate the production of a hormone known as oxytocin.
Oxytocin is an endorphin that helps to make you feel good and establish a strong emotional connection with other people.
Not only will hugging somebody help stimulate the production and release of this hormone, but it will also help build feelings of compassion and trust with the person you are hugging or in physical contact with, which will help to form a strong connection.
Even something as simple as a friendly or encouraging pat on the back can motivate people and help build a sense of trust.
How does physical contact help our mental health?
After 2020, it’s safe to say that many people’s mental health has suffered, and as detrimental as this can be, the good news is that there are natural ways of addressing this and turning things around.
Physical contact with another individual promotes the production and secretion of endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine. These are known as ‘happy chemicals’ because they make us feel happy and content in life.
These neurotransmitters help regulate our mood and stimulate pleasure receptors in the brain, offsetting negative emotions and feelings such as stress and anxiety.
Physical contact improves our health in general, but how?
Another of the lesser-known benefits of physical contact with others is that physical contact improves our physical health in general.
To begin with, physical contact has been found to suppress the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. This is important because cortisol can suppress the immune system and render it less effective, so the more cortisol we have in our bodies, the weaker the immune system, and vice versa.
As well as that, physical contact also helps to promote relaxation, which can reduce blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to all manner of health issues, including serious and potentially fatal ones such as an increased risk of a heart attack.
Studies have found that regular physical contact from a loved one can reduce a person’s blood pressure and resting heart rate.
So, whether you are a hugger or a touch me not, there are many physical and mental benefits form a good old squeeze!