What is Vitamin T? I'm not talking about testosterone (that could be the topic of a later post). I'm talking about touch. Physical connection. Something that is essential to all social animals, ourselves included. When you consider that as a culture we have very low levels of physical touch to begin with, and then you add on a pandemic that eschews interaction and rewards isolation, you have a recipe for touch deficiency.
The benefits of touch are manifold. Starting with the physiological ones, you have an uptick in oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and nitrous oxide when you touch someone (or some animal). This effect is even higher when that contact is skin to skin. These hormones and neurotransmitters help to elevate alertness, boost the immune system, and regulate circadian rhythms. Psychologically, touch leads to a greater sense of well-being, better mood, and a deeper sense of interconnectedness. All of this sounds great, right? But what is the right dosage you may ask? Can you get too much touch?
Let's begin to answer these questions by first defining what we mean by healthy touch. We are talking about consensual, non-aggressive touch here. This can range from a light tap on the arm during a conversation to a deep tissue massage. It is healthy as long as both parties' boundaries are mutually respected. To answer the question of dosage...that will be self-limiting. Some people thrive on more touch, whereas others don't need as much. The upper and lower limits are case dependent. However, if we get less touch than we need, certain deleterious symptoms can arise, namely, anxiety, depression, and decreased immunity. If a child is deprived of touch at an early enough stage they will develop severe, irreversible psychological disorders.
So people, I ask you this, are you getting enough touch right now? Has the pandemic made you sufficiently afraid so that you are restricting hugs, handshakes, and other normal human interactions? Is there a way restore your touch without compromising your safety? That could be finding a massage therapist whom you trust, or getting a pet, or even just giving hugs to a few more friends. Be safe. Be clean. Don't breath into other people's faces. I leave you with this question: could not sharing in one of the most primal human needs be causing more harm than good? You decide. Please leave a comment below.