Ask most people which side effect of social distancing has been hardest to cope with, and chances are, they’d be quick to identify the demise of hugs as weighing heaviest on their heart.
Even before this year’s pandemic, there were worrying signs of ‘touch deficiency’ surfacing, with 2020 having all but accelerated this shift to a more distanced and less tactile society.
As a result, more and more of us are suffering the effects of little or no physical contact, and the consequences can’t be underestimated…
Studies show, in particular, that hugs can help to buffer pain and stress, as well as boost the immune system (ironic given that now is when we need this effect most!)
All this makes it easy to see where the main physical and emotional side effects of ‘touch deficiency’ - or 'skin hunger' as it's also known - are partly stemming from.
Such is the mass longing for more hugs, that #PhysicalTouch even recently began trending on Twitter!
In terms of solutions, and alternatives, there sadly aren’t many that compare to the real thing, it must be said.
However, with today being National Teddy Bear Day, it’s a fitting time to look at the positive effects that ‘comfort objects’ can offer us during this period of social distancing.
With a study by Travelodge showing that over a third of British adults sleep with a teddy bear, now is the time for our cuddly companions to really come into their own.
There has always been some degree of embarrassment around keeping a teddy bear into adulthood. However, for all those of us with a ragged childhood toy stashed beneath the sheets, Laura Linney’s scene from #loveactually, where she kisses and then hurriedly hides her beloved bear to avoid her romantic ‘guest’ catching sight of it, offers a relatable heart-tug reminder of the ties that so often bind us with the most seemingly inanimate objects.
The ties are wholly understandable, when you hear that a UV University Amsterdam study (discussed by the Daily Mail) found that touching something comforting can help people suffering from stress and low self-esteem.
So there you have it! All the evidence you need that having a teddy at the age of 37 is not just acceptable… but recommended.
‘Humans need four hugs every day to survive, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth.’ Virginia Satir, Late author and therapist