As we celebrate this holiday differently than ever before, we do still celebrate. For that opportunity, we are grateful. So many people across the globe have suffered unimaginable losses, and yet there is a remedy that offers pandemic relief, and it’s free. Hugs.
If you are one of the lucky ones who shares a home with a loved one or two, take time throughout the day to hug each other. Research has proven how hugs help the human psyche, as well as the physical body. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, was recently interviewed by Petula Dvorak, a columnist for the Washington Post, for a December 8, 2020 article titled “Embracing Plastic Barriers.”
Field found that “applying pressure to a body sets off chemical and electrical internal workings that zing and ping through our nervous system. Similar to what happens during meditation, our heart rate slows, our blood pressure slows, and brain waves turn to theta.” After reviewing Field’s 40 years of research, Dvorak wrote, “Hugs are like hand sanitizer for your internal anatomy.”
As much as we’ve zoomed with loved ones, most of us didn’t anticipate the impact of the lack of physical touch. In many cases, it’s been nine months since parents hugged their sons, daughters or friends. It is time to get creative in giving the gift of touch. Once hugs are possible, huggers are stunned by the strength of their cathartic emotional responses.
Senior community centers have modeled how to create “safe” zones so that mothers, fathers, grandparents and great-grandparents can finally hug their loved ones. While offering the safety of barriers (such as plastic shower curtains, gloves and neoprene), the “touches” have proven effective. The “Hugging Wall” reservation schedules are usually booked solid, and the barriers are disinfected after each appointment.
Given this scientific research and validated positive emotional response, we encourage you to pause today and this holiday season to hug those with whom you live as often as they’ll allow. Recognize the profound free gift at your disposal and savor every touch. It’s good for your spirit, and now you know that it’s equally good for your body. We look forward to the day we get to hug people outside of our bubble, but for now, hug the one(s) you’re with, as you safely shelter in place this holiday season.
Innolect Excursion Learning Practice Lead