To learn how to overcome touch starvation we need to understand what touch starvation is.
Or maybe, why “touch” is so important in the first place.
Even if it doesn’t seem like casual contact is for everyone.
After all, many people like to maintain their personal space.
In some cases this might be a cultural thing.
The Japanese, for example, have a strict code when it comes to physical contact, and intruding onto other people’s space, let alone touching them, is heavily frowned upon.
Another example would be introverts, who take a longer time to feel comfortable around others when compared to extroverts.
Even then, in many cases they’d probably rather keep others at arm’s length.
Physical contact is a part of human interaction
Although people who keep their personal space to themselves may have excellent social skills, there’s something missing when they interact with people, small gestures that may seem inconsequential.
A pat on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss, even a handshake between friends.
Although some may feel uncomfortable with these gestures, the truth is that physical contact is something that all humans need.
So much so that avoiding it can negatively impact our mental health and overall wellness.
Not all contact is intimate
We tend to think of physical contact as intimate, and in certain ways it absolutely is.
After all, if we are attracted to someone then it’s only natural that we would want to get close to them.
But in many cases, the platonic variety of contact is what we’re missing.
Without it, we may find ourselves experiencing a strong need for physical affection that we’re just not getting.
This feeling is known as “touch starvation”, “touch deprivation” and “skin hunger”, and it’s certainly not doing us any favors.
Avoiding touch hurts us
One study from 2014 examined 509 adults with varying levels of skin hunger
According to the study’s results, people with high levels of skin hunger were less happy, more likely to experience stress and suffer from depression.
Not only that, but they also were in overall worse health.
This makes perfect sense.
The skin is our largest sensory organ, and, much like sight and hearing, stimulating it can be very satisfying, the same way that seeing the sunset or hearing pleasant music can be.
Some forms of music can be considered therapeutic, and light therapy does exist, so why shouldn’t a hug or a pat on the back have a similar effect?
Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and in those cases, a simple gesture can do more for a person than practically anything else.
Not all touch is created equal
Physical contact is a great way to create a feeling of closeness between two individuals.
The truth of the matter, however, is that not all physical touch is created equal.
For example, a hug might yield a different result than a handshake.
Not only that, but the person that’s doing the touching also plays a huge role in how we react to it
A woman’s touch is more powerful
In one study from 2010 researchers attempted to measure the way that physical touch affects the participants and their inclination towards risk-taking.
During the study, the participants were greeted by either male or a female researcher with either a handshake, a pat on the shoulder or no physical contact at all.
At the end of the experiment, the participants were asked to fill surveys regarding how safe they felt.
According to the results, a touch on the shoulder was the most comforting/reassuring gesture, but only if it came from a woman.
The effects of the male’s touch were practically zero.
People that are close to us are above strangers
Even in a diversified group of both men and women, the results were still the same.
It seems as though women, for a variety of reasons, hold a distinct advantage over men when it comes to this sort of thing.
That isn’t to say that a close male friend can’t provide comfort, but the data does seem to suggest that women do a better job at it.
At least, when when we have no emotional attachment to them.
When it comes to friends, family and loved ones, it’s doesn’t really matter if they’re male or female.
What matters is how close they are to us.
Invest in meaningful relationships
Although it’s true that we might have certain biases when it comes to physical touch, our relationships are what makes contact so special.
For example, a lover’s touch is a very powerful thing, but the only thing that makes it powerful is your mind.
One study by the University College of London suggests that your brain “tricks” you into believing that your partner’s skin is softer and more pleasant than your own to keep you interested in touching them.
We want to touch people that we are close to
When you get close enough to someone, touching them is natural.
This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships, either.
Platonic gestures of affection become almost like second nature to us when we are around people that we are close to.
Some are more reserved than others, and things like anxiety and culture certainly play a role, but as a general rule of thumb, this is true.
Contact is a symptom of meaningful human interaction.
That isn’t to say that you have to be close to everyone you interact with, far from it.
Rather, if you aren’t quite that close to anyone at all, then you might have a problem.
Touch helps you connect with others
The fact of the matter is that many people are not used to touching others, not even their friends.
Sure, shaking hands is common enough, and maybe a hug here and there does happen, but for the most part we keep to ourselves, especially when we don’t know the person in question all that well.
But the truth is that sometimes even a light touch on the shoulder might not be entirely misplaced,
Even among relative strangers, our sense of touch gives us a unique ability to communicate thoughts and ideas more effectively.
Through such casual gestures, even strangers can become friends in a very short amount of time.
Even if you don’t get along with someone, touch can make a huge difference.
Hugs can help you resolve conflicts
As it turns out, physical touch can help you overcome existing negative feelings and interpersonal tension.
According to a recent study, receiving a hug after experiencing interpersonal conflict will reduce the overall negative effects of the conflict, so much so that the reduction can carry over to the next day.
This kind of supportive environment makes it easier to get over resentment and get along with other people.
Our skin is an excellent tool for communication, making it easier to convey emotions, establish relationships, get over conflicts, and have a better time enjoying each other’s company.
Hugs can reduce stress and keep you healthy
Hugs are a great example of just how important touch is to human interaction.
We hug other people whenever we are sad, happy, excited and everything in between.
Hugs are awesome because they let us convey emotions and form connections quickly and effectively.
But what if I told you that there was a lot more to them than that?
In reality, hugging and receiving hugs from others has scientifically-proven benefits.
For example, according to a recent study, hugging can reduce stress.
Imagine coming home after a long day at work and getting a hug from a person you care about.
Pretty great, huh?
Not only that, but hugs are also proven to be able to reduce certain types of anxiety, maybe even all of them.
All forms of touch can potentially have a similar effect
The interesting part about this is that this effect isn’t limited to just hugging, but can be seen in other forms of touch as well.
For example, one study aimed to find the effects of supportive contact between couples.
According to the data, both receiving physical support and providing physical support may reduce the stress levels of both participants.
Aside from that, hugs may also reduce your chances of getting sick, improve your heart health and alleviate pain.
These effects aren’t necessarily limited to hugs, of course, but hugs are just casual and platonic enough to avoid feeling too intimate.
The more you hug, the more benefits you get – so get to it!
Animals can help you
As important as physical contact is for a relationship, getting to the point where you can experience it casually takes time.
Many people link ‘touch’ with ‘trust’, and trusting someone to get close enough to them might take time.
So, what can you do in the meantime?
There are multiple ways to handle this problem.
But first of all, who’s to say that it’s strictly human contact that you need?
Animals can help you
Ask any pet owner and they will tell you that their pets mean at least something to them.
But did you know that there is more to them than being just a pleasant company?
As it turns out, petting animals can help you feed your touch starvation, making you happier and more content.
In fact, many people go to work with animals as a part of their therapy for this very reason.
According to one study, petting your cat or dog for just 10 minutes a day can have a significant effect on your overall stress
Although not a perfect replacement for human interaction by any means, animals can certainly brighten your day.
You shouldn’t too rough on them
That being said, you should consider the way that you handle them.
Being too rough with animals can make them resent you, or at the very least feel very uncomfortable.
For example, dogs don’t like to be cuddled. Hugging your dog can make it quite stressful and unhappy.
Many other animals probably feel the same way.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t spend time with your dog or anything like that, but be mindful of how you treat animals.
Human contact can be found pretty much everywhere
Sometimes people have a tendency to believe that touch is something special, and to a certain extent, it is.
Yet ultimately, touching someone is just the act of coming into physical contact with them.
That’s something that we can experience quite a bit in our daily lives.
Here are some examples:
- Getting a massage
- Playing sports
- Getting your nails done
- Taking dance lessons
- Getting a haircut
Keep in mind, these aren’t ways for you to avoid other people.
In fact, playing sports and dancing can be very social activities.
Rather, these are meant to be temporary solutions, ways for you to handle skin hunger until you find those special people that you will trust.
Socialization might be the answer
It’s no secret that we would prefer to keep many people at a distance from us.
Be it due to professionalism, discomfort, awkwardness, politeness or any other reason, we tend to avoid actually touching other people.
That aversion to touch might be right for most situations but outright avoiding physical contact can affect our health, both mental and physical, as well as limit our ability to communicate with others.
If you feel comfortable around someone you shouldn’t hold yourself back from expressing it (unless, of course, it makes them uncomfortable)
If you are in a difficult place in your life, and find yourself pushing others away, take this article as a wake-up call and get in touch with someone (literally).
After all, there is no limit on how many hugs you should have every day.
For those of you who suffer from anxiety and/or depression, this will be a first great step to getting better.
If you are serious about getting over these conditions, the links that I’ve added should provide you with even more help.
If you have any more questions feel free to get in touch with me, I am always available at my email or the comment section below.
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