How Important Is Human Touch and Contact?

Ah, summertime, sweet summertime. This summer was especially sweet for me. That’s why I haven’t been writing my blog posts. I was too busy walking my talk by living my own well-being lifestyle.

And what exactly was I doing? During the past several weeks, Lynn and I enjoyed two, rousing, 10-day road tripsThe first one was to southern California: Big Sur, Hwy 1, Santa Barbara, and Ventura where we attended a 3-day workshopA month later, our second road trip took us northward: my 18th annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, then Tacoma, Elk Prairie in the old growth redwoods, Mendocino, and wine tasting through Anderson Valley and along the Russian River in Sonoma County.

In between road trips, we also soaked up one week on an Alaskan cruise with family. Beautifully pristine wilderness all through the Inside Passage, unusually clear, blue skies, and, of course, the onboard food wasn’t bad. (And yes, I DID avoid most of the sugary treats.) A particular highlight was taking a float plane out to observe some spectacular glaciers. Whew!

I know, I’m going on a bit here. But I strive to be totally transparent in these posts. Well okay, almost totally transparent. And this is what my life has been about these past several weeks. I think it’s good that you know my intention is to actually live a well-being lifestyle myself, not just write about it. And travel is an important part of that for me.

Alright, time to focus on the real topic of this post. It’s something that is at once instinctually compelling, intricately nuanced, and culturally laden with many, and often divergent, implications.

I’m talking of course about how we seek and make physical contact with one another. Yes Virginia, this topic IS entirely relevant and an extremely important aspect of a well-being lifestyle.

We humans are, first and foremost, social creatures. We truly need each other. We are inter-dependent. And we need a certain amount of physical contact with one another, regularly.

“[Touch] is the first language we learn,” says Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life (Norton, 2009).

“It remains,” Keltner says, “our richest means of emotional expression” throughout life. “In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredibly emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.”

So, as adults, how do we go about getting enough touch and healing contact on a regular basis? Well, glad you asked.

Of course, meaningful touch can be as simple as a casual pat on the back, touch on the arm, or genial handshake. Going further, therapeutic massage and bodywork, dancing, sports, martial arts, as well as sensuality and sexuality  and hugs!  are all important ways to reduce stress, rejuvenate and heal your body, mind, and spirit, and improve your emotional outlook.

To find an appropriate massage or bodywork practitioner, you can look online or in the phone book or ask someone for a referral to schedule a session this week. Mmmmm  you’ll be glad you did.

I would be remiss if I did not also say something specifically about sensuality and sexuality. As we all know, they are two key sources of pleasure that bring us into the “now” in a magical way.

Sensuality focuses on pleasure that is accessed through our five senses and our sensitivities to truth and beauty. Sexuality is an important means of expressing intimacy in mutually pleasurable ways that can strengthen the bonds of our relationship.

But what could I possibly say here in short order about these two subjects that truly would be meaningful? Perhaps only that sensuality and sexuality are important aspects of life that are often misunderstood and so laden with cultural misinformation and “shoulds” that much of the potency and opportunity for direct experience and/or real intimacy is often missed.

If you haven’t already, may I suggest that you take, or make, the opportunity to touch and experience physical contact with someone today, and be touched in return. Your body, as well as your mind and spirit, will thank you!

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