Started by dsanchez, January 21, 2019, 10:12:50
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Quote from: dsanchezApparently 21st January is International Hugging Day!
Quote from: MeltingMan on January 24, 2021, 11:20:17Quote from: dsanchezApparently 21st January is International Hugging Day!For real? I had my hug day yesterday. Somebody visited me and I couldn't let go of the person, I missed that so much. 😥🤗
QuoteLost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental healthHumans are designed to touch and be touched - which is why so many who live on their own have suffered during the pandemic. Will we ever fully recover?There's only so much a dog can do, even if that is a lot. I live alone with my staffy, and by week eight of the first lockdown she was rolling her eyes at my ever-tightening clutch. I had been sofa-bound with Covid and its after-effects before lockdown was announced, then spring and summer passed without any meaningful touch from another person. I missed the smell of my friends' clothes and my nephew's hair, but, more than anything, I missed the groundedness only another human body can bring. The ache in my solar plexus that married these thoughts often caught me off guard...."Touch is a modulator that can temper the effects of stress and pain, physical and emotional. We have seen in our research that a lack of touch is associated with greater anxiety," says Fotopoulou. "In times of high stress - the loss of a job, or a bereavement, for example - having more touch from others helps us cope better, particularly in calming the effects of [the stress hormone] cortisol." Even if we're used to not being touched a lot, after a while the need can feel very physical - sometimes described as "skin hunger" or "touch hunger".While I can empathise with the exhausting monotony my friends with young families have described to me (and I know that the grass is always greener), I have felt the lack of belonging to a pack acutely. Claire Birke, a teacher from Edinburgh, has felt it, too: "I'm 37, and most of my friends are living with partners or children," she says. "I have never felt more aware of my single status, nor the lack of intimate bodily contact, in my life."The number of people in the UK living on their own went up by 16% to 7.7 million between 1997 and 2017. The sliver of sociability that came with social bubbles being announced has felt life-saving. Smith has been "bubbling" with a couple who live together and says it has helped with her mood. But the days are long, and her friends "are not particularly tactile"."I realise how much I touch people without thinking," she says. "I feel like I am holding all this emotion in my body with nowhere to put it."In high-stress states, it can feel as if our bodies can barely contain our emotion if there's no one there to hold us. "Lots of studies support the theory that touch gives the brain a signal that it can delegate its resources for coping because someone else is there to bear the brunt. This relaxes the body, going some way to restoring the stress budget, if you like," says Fotopoulou. But touch is not a single sense. The two square metres of skin that contain us are teeming with nerve fibres that recognise temperature, texture and itch, etc. One set of fibres exists purely to register gentle, stroking touch: the C tactile afferents (CTs). McGlone has been studying this since 1995, when it was discovered in humans. "These neurons, in the skin of all social mammals, transmit slow electrical signals to the emotional processing parts of the brain. They play a critical role in developing the social brain and our ability to withstand stress."The highest density of CTs across the body are in the parts we can't "groom" ourselves, such as the shoulders and back. "If you love having your back rubbed it's because there are more CTs there," says McGlone. "Stimulation of these neurons releases oxytocin and dopamine, and has a direct impact on cortisol levels, which regulates our mood." In 2017, Fotopoulou's team published a study that showed even gentle, slow stroking from a stranger can reduce feelings of social exclusion. But in our normal lives, we're not going round stroking each other all the time. "No, you don't need that touch all day," McGlone says. "We only need this gentle kind of touch intermittently."