Believe it or not, I’m not a real touchy feely person. I tend to hug my close friends, but I’m pretty good with a handshake or slight nod to others. As someone who is not very touchy feely, there is one place where I allow more physical touch than others. I have noticed that when I visit my family, I am unusually touchy with my mother. I like to sit on her lap (yes, I am 37 and love sitting on my 70-year-old mother’s lap) and hug her a lot, and many times she will come into my room to hug me and tuck me into bed. It’s not just because I’m a momma’s girl—it’s because I physically crave that touch from my mother. And I realize that I crave it so much because of the long droughts of physical touch I experience normally.
Science has shown that physical touch is incredibly important to our health. And while some people (like me) are not as comfortable with physical touch, here are a few things to remember about this physically healthy habit:
- Physical touch is a necessity, not a convenience. Studies show we need at least four hugs per day to survive! I don’t know how I’m surviving, because it is difficult for me to warm up to someone enough to allow them to touch me. Perhaps that is you as well. But I eventually realized the importance of allowing others to touch me in appropriate physical ways. Jesus was always touching people, and my favorite story is of Him healing the leper in Matthew 8. This man had not been touched by ANYONE in years, and Jesus could have healed him with words alone, but He chose to touch him. I believe Jesus touched this man to show how important physical touch is to us as humans. He healed him physically, but He healed him emotionally as well through touch, thus showing us the necessity of physical touch. Are you meeting the hug minimum?
- Physical touch helps us to grow. A human infant that is born must have loving, physical touch in order to survive and grow physically. But it is not just infants who need that loving touch—it is an important part of being a physically healthy adult as well. Remember those four hugs we need to survive? Apparently, we need 12 hugs a day to grow! Neurologists claim that the more we touch others, the happier we are. This is due to a lot of physiological occurrences that I don’t understand (because I’m not a scientist). But the other day, I ran into a friend in Dunkin Donuts, and I hugged him, even though we’re not that close. That hug made me realize my own lack in this area and gave me the boost I needed to smile during traffic, be nicer to my coworkers, and work harder at my job the rest of the day. That’s growth!
- Physical touch releases us. We are “falling” into healthy habits not to separate ourselves in these three areas but to see how intricately connected our emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness are. Touching others in appropriate, non-creepy ways can lead to more vulnerability and openness in our relationships with others. I have often been emotionally released by the touch of a loved one—like my mother or a close friend. I have seen people’s demeanors change when I’ve reached out and touched them instead of put up a distancing emotional wall. I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when praying while holding hands with friends. The Bible speaks of God holding our hand as we go through fearful times (Isaiah 41:13; Psalm 73:23), and Jesus was constantly touching others to create connection. So how can you break down barriers and weave tighter bonds with others using appropriate physical touch?
It may not seem like much, but the appropriate, caring touch of another person can breathe life into us, sustain us, and help us to grow as adults. If you want to be physically healthy, you must allow yourself to touch and be touched by others—and break down the barriers we have built around ourselves.