I am worried for humanity. Social distancing is an important precaution during this acute phase of Covid-19 to keep our elderly and immunocomprised healthy, though I worry what the future will bring. As homo sapiens we are social creatures; touch is an important part of our general well being. Physical contact with our fellow humans keeps us both physically and mentally healthy. Before this outbreak I was already noticing a downturn of touch. The more engrossed in social media platforms we become the less we are physically interacting with those around us. Living in a litigation society a simple touch can lead to a harassment nightmare. We were falling into questioning every action taken by ourselves and others rather than feeling things out. With all the mindfulness lectures, quotes and ideals circulating we are reading, talking, sharing but not applying. Now that the media is creating mass paranoia will people forever be protective of their personal space? I truly hope not…
Study after study have demonstrated the importance of touch through every stage of life, those that experience daily loving touch are more resilient to stress and have stronger immune systems. It is through touch that we relay love, compassion and joy. Touch gives a greater depth of meaning to the words that we use and helps to convey emotion; it creates, encourages, builds connection. Not just within our small circles but also with people we meet in the street. A handshake, a gentle pat on the shoulder, a quick embrace… are these things of the past?
Mindful, meaningful touch is our first line of communication. A newborn baby is not spoken to, to be soothed, she is held; that is instinct. The soothing nature of touch does not leave us as we age, it is just as important at 5, 20 and 90 as it is to a newborn. Within my lifetime numerous studies have shown us how important touch is in caring for the elderly. A study published in the Journal of Nursing, June 1999, showed that anxiety is lower immediately following expressive physical touch with verbalization in people with dementia. They also noted a significant drop in dysfunctional behaviour by the same group of individuals. Other studies completed within groups of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients around the world have provided similar results.
The benefits of physical contact do not end with lowered anxiety, touch is also a way for us to come in contact with essential micro-flora. In order for our digestive systems to work effectively we must be in constant contact with beneficial bacteria. When our gut flora is in balance we digest foods,
absorb nutrients and excrete waste in a perfect ratio. When it is out of balance, we excrete half digested foods, are not able to absorb certain nutrients and toxins are not properly removed from the body. Our immune systems build defenses to foreign bodies by being in contact with them. There is a theory that we are more sick, less tolerant and have a greater number of chronic illnesses now than ever in history because we are too clean.
Right now while we are in crisis mode hug the people in your house, stay close, remain open to them. Practice this mindful meditation to send love to those outside of your immediate circle.
Find a comfortable position and bring awareness to your breath. Take a deep breath in and release it through the mouth in a sigh. Now take 3 deep breaths in and out through the nose, making each breath slower than the last. Bring to mind’s eye a close friend or family member smile and mentally embrace them. Send loving thoughts:
- May you be happy
- May you be healthy
- May you love and be loved
Repeat this as many times as you wish with as many people as you wish. End your meditation by sending loving thoughts out to your city, your province (or state), your country and the world.
May this time of hardship bring us closer together not distance us. May we cultivate compassion for our fellow humans. And. May we be love.
A handshake, a gentle pat on the shoulder, a quick embrace… are these things of the past?
For the sake of future generations, I hope not. If you see me on the street, come closer, I will always be open to touch. It is too important. If you need a shoulder to cry on mine is always available. My arms will always be open…
Love and Hugs