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Permission to Hug

Being social is part of human behaviour, as lockdown measures ease this week we are able to be more social and are permitted to hug loved ones again. 

The challenges we have faced over the past months due to lockdown has greatly impacted individual’s mental health and how connected we feel with others. This may be attributed to the lack of physical and social interaction we have been able to have with others. Reported feelings of loneliness has increased over the lockdown periods with the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey finding that over the past year levels of loneliness has affected over 3.5m adults in the UK.

Read more about how to approach and combat feelings of loneliness here.

The opportunity to be able to get together and hug people is something we have all been looking forward to again and can hopefully help to combat these feelings of loneliness. 

Not being able to have physical connections have left individuals ‘touch starved’ or craving affection. Being able to receive and give physical gestures of affection is a human need and has been suggested to reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. This is due to its impact on hormones, calming of the nervous system and reducing heart rate, helping to put us in a more relaxed state. 

Read more about the science behind the power of touch here.

Having social support and being able to socialise in larger groups has also been shown to help with our mental wellbeing, giving us a sense of meaning, belonging, and reducing feelings of stress. (See article: Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy).

Activities such as meeting up with a friend, going for a walk or simply just being able to enjoy another’s company can do wonders for our health and help us to unwind. As well as benefitting our mental health, it has been found that having social, supportive interaction with others can have an impact on our cardiovascular, endocrine and immune system. Thus suggesting that social contact and interaction is a vital need. 

Though restrictions may be easing, it is important to keep in mind that people may still be feeling unsure or anxious about becoming more social again or engaging in non-sexual physical contact. If you are feeling a little cautious then take things slowly, start with one thing at a time. Also check out Emma Comfort’s “the healing power of touch article” to find out more about how we can help ourselves.

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