Arya M did not touch another person for three months after the country went into lockdown last year. She isolated herself in her home in Coimbatore and worked remotely. “I have been living alone for the past three years and did not find it a big deal,” she says. But things changed after two months. “Over time, I missed the feeling of human touch; shaking hands, getting a pat and so on,” she recollects. Finally, unable to stand the loneliness, she left her home and moved in with her parents. “It was such a relief. I still remember my mother’s hug when we met,” she says.
The human body is meant to touch and be touched. “When there is a deprivation of skin-to-skin touch for a prolonged period, we tend to develop a desire for it from other living beings. This is called skin hunger and is a topic much discussed now due to the pandemic,” explains Vaishnaruby Shanmugaraj, senior clinical psychologist, Vazhikatti Mental Health Centre and Research Institute, Coimbatore. From the time a baby is born, it depends on touch for physical and emotional wellbeing.
“This is why doctors let mothers have skin to skin contact with their child right after birth,” she explains. Human touch has many benefits. It helps calm the nervous system, boost the immune system, activate the hormone oxytocin that is critical for bonding, reduce the production of the stress hormone called cortisol, lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Sugami Ramesh, senior consultant, Clinical Psychology, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru says, “A lack of touch can cause loneliness, sleep disturbance, depression and anxiety but it also varies from person to person.” While there isn’t a replacement for human touch, there are still things that can help. Vaishnaruby recommends hugging a body pillow and massaging the back of our neck to stimulate the nerves. Sugami suggests exercise.
“It helps to decrease stress and improves sleep.” Getting a pet is also a good option. “Hugging an animal will be good for you. Use a heavy blanket that puts a little pressure on your body thereby giving a feeling of being enveloped in a hug. But make sure to seek medical help if you think it is needed,” she says.
In this column, we demystify the buzzwords in wellness.
You have reached your limit for free articles this month.
Already have an account ? Sign in
Start your 14 days free trial. Sign Up
Find mobile-friendly version of articles from the day's newspaper in one easy-to-read list.
Enjoy reading as many articles as you wish without any limitations.
A select list of articles that match your interests and tastes.
Move smoothly between articles as our pages load instantly.
A one-stop-shop for seeing the latest updates, and managing your preferences.
We brief you on the latest and most important developments, three times a day.
*Our Digital Subscription plans do not currently include the e-paper, crossword and print.
We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.
Your support for our journalism is invaluable. It’s a support for truth and fairness in journalism. It has helped us keep apace with events and happenings.
The Hindu has always stood for journalism that is in the public interest. At this difficult time, it becomes even more important that we have access to information that has a bearing on our health and well-being, our lives, and livelihoods. As a subscriber, you are not only a beneficiary of our work but also its enabler.
We also reiterate here the promise that our team of reporters, copy editors, fact-checkers, designers, and photographers will deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.
Please enter a valid email address.
Subscribe to The Hindu now and get unlimited access.
You can support quality journalism by turning off ad blocker or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to The Hindu.