Touch-starvation is an epidemic, especially in the U.S. and the U.K.
Are you touch-starved?
Here are some symptoms.
–You might have trouble sleeping through the night.
–Or feel irritable.
Does this sound familiar? I have certainly experienced all these symptoms when I don’t get enough healthy, affectionate touch.
Here are some fascinating research tidbits from the UC Berkeley positive psychology research center Greater Good on the science of touch:
–“A recent study has found that when librarians pat the hand of a student checking out a book, that student says he or she likes the library more—and is more likely to come back.”
–“Research at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health has found that getting eye contact and a pat on the back from a doctor may boost survival rates of patients with complex diseases.”
–“The U.S. and the UK are particularly touch-deprived. In the 1960s pioneering psychologist Sidney Jourard studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. . . In England, the two friends touched each other zero times. In the United States, in bursts of enthusiasm, we touched each other twice. . . In France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour. And in Puerto Rico, those friends touched each other 180 times!”
A dearth of touch in our lives can leave us anxious. Unsettled. And insomniac. I’ve certainly experienced terrible insomnia during long periods of singlehood, and when I get more touch, my sleep improves.
So how do we address a lack of healthy, affectionate touch in our lives? We don’t need to hire a professional cuddler. Yes, professional cuddling services exist in our touch-starved society, a sign of how desperate we have become in our hurtling-toward-Her digital society.
Here are a number of ways to address touch starvation, no matter what your relationship status:
–Hugs with friends or family can do the trick. Hug for twenty seconds. At twenty seconds, we release oxytocin, the hormone of well-being and bliss.
–Simply make yourself more available for giving and receiving a friendly pat on the back with friends or family, or snuggling while watching TV.
–Create a non-sexual cuddle buddy relationship. You might be surprised by how twenty minutes of snuggling affects you.
–You can even go to a cuddle party (I have attended TWO cuddle parties, and I will be writing about that in another post).
–It’s never a bad idea to get a massage.
–Dance tango. Research has found that weekly tango lessons can alleviates stress, anxiety and/or depression even more than a meditation mindfulness practice. I love the idea of meditation, but it’s never struck me as very pleasurable. Tango is pleasurable.
I’ve experienced a dramatic health and mood change after I started tango in 2010. Before I discovered tango, being single would leave me with not enough touch in my life. After I started dancing tango, my terrible insomnia that had started at age 30 improved. I could sleep through the night and wake up pleasurably after a night of dancing. I’ll be honest. In my first weeks of dancing tango, I exclaimed to a friend, “I think this might be better than sex!” Pleasure cells has been woken up all over my body. I floated down to breakfast feeling like a different person.
A dance of hugging and walking
Why did tango make such a profound impact? Tango is a dance based on hugging and walking. Hugging for 20 seconds or longer increases oxytocin (the cuddle hormone of well-being and bliss) and slows the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, especially in women. This banishes stress. When you dance tango for a night, you hug for far longer than 20 seconds. It might be an hour or 90 minutes cumulative over a night of dancing, so you can just imagine what that much oxytocin can do for your well-being. We’re talking tangasm. Yes, it can be that good.
I share all this with you for a few reasons. One, to encourage you to increase affectionate touch in your life. Two, to give you some context for why I love to spread tango with people who are not already part of this dance. I believe that tango is truly life-changing and life-affirming. This dance can give you such a dose of affectionate touch and love outside of a romantic relationship. For those of us in touch-starved countries like the U.S. and the UK, we desperately need hugs and affectionate touch to keep us balanced, happy, and sane.
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Awesome post, Sasha!
Thanks Yancy! This is a deeply felt one, and all of this will be expanded upon greatly in the book I’m working on now. 🙂
Thanks Sasha! Great summary of points that many of us in Tango are kind of aware of, but this is an article well synthesized that we can share with the uninitiated (our non-tango friends)….
Cool! Yes, that will make me happy to spread the tango love beyond those already dancing. 🙂
This might explain the insomnia I’ve had as long as I can remember. At some point we just became a bother for my parents and they locked themselves away, asking for a hug was greated with huffing and puffing. I now have a fair sized dog that likes to sleep along my back and suddenly I feel grounded and secure.
Research has also shown we should have up ward of 15 hugs a day.