The Value of Touch: Handholding, Hugging and Humans

Of all the bizarre things that have come out of the pandemic, including wearing masks and shortages of toilet paper, not being allowed to hug your loved ones is arguably the strangest, yet to me, it’s the one I’ve questioned least. Isn’t it weird? We had to and must continue to protect those most at risk, but when you really think about the fact that hugging, kissing, hand holding, all classic examples of showing affection, became illegal and we hardly questioned it, it’s crazy!

See, if someone had told us this time two years ago that we would be looking forward to hugging our family and friends, we definitely would have thought they were mad. Yet, it has become a reality. As we get closer and closer to a return to normality, the majority of us are very much looking forward to hugging our grandparents again or dancing in a packed nightclub. Both these acts involve touch. Perhaps, touch is the sense we value the least, yet is it most important?

Whether you are happy or sad, excited or nervous, a hug always does wonders. As I approached the end of first term and second term, I desperately craved a hug from my Mum, and I very much look forward to hugging my Grandma. I think we can all agree, that whilst an “elbow bump” is better than nothing, it certainly doesn’t match the joy of a hug.

To paint a very simple picture, the positive impact of hugs can be seen even in babies. When a baby is crying, the easiest way to comfort them is with a hug. I don’t think that changes as you get older, the power of a simple hug is incredibly obvious.

According to Psychology Today, humans need hugs to “flourish”. They also detailed how according to a study of 404 adults, of those who recorded they weren’t feeling great, many felt significantly better after a hug. I was lucky that I spent the first lockdown with my parents and my two sisters, and the next two with some of my best friends. I really feel for those who were not able to live with their loved ones during the hardest months of the pandemic, and I can only image how they are feeling now!

In sixth form, my friends and I met a class of French students in Cardiff for the day. Their teacher made the five of us line up on the steps of the National Museum in Cardiff and kiss them all on the cheeks (le bis). It was very awkward, so perhaps one of the only positives of the hugging-ban, is that the pandemic provided an opportunity to avoid those awkward hugs and bumbling kisses on the cheek: where do you put your hands, which side do you go for. However, despite the awkwardness, I think I would prefer that every day, over the strange touchless lives we have been leading for the past year.

Have we forgotten how to hug strangers? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But, I can certainly say I’m excited to squeeze everyone just that little bit harder and for a little bit longer than I usually would!

-Maggie John

Featured Image Source: Pexels

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