Some of us have been more isolated than others during this crazy Corona-coaster ride. Not having anyone to touch, or share any physical closeness with, may have affected levels of loneliness for some, more acutely than others. Those of us with a spouse, lover, trusted friend, children, parents, grandchildren, or siblings to hold & hug are very fortunate.
A dear friend told me about a very different kind of hug she experienced recently. Sara and I formed a close friendship while living in London in the early 1980s. Her immediate visual appeal was her thick, dark, long, and gorgeous hair and clear complexion, which I was always envious of. With my slight blemishes and thin, dirty blonde hair, but shapely & balanced body, we used to tease each other that, between us, we formed a physically perfect woman. We even both re-located to different States in America in a similar time frame.
However, Sara moved back to England, recently, to a new town, soon after lock-down occurred. Subsequently, she was frustrated by not being able to create new friendships and develop more intimate relationships. She was feeling starved of human touch of any kind, and an occasional elbow bump was not doing it for her.
There was one friend, called Hannah, she did know in town. While visiting one day, Hannah suggested a safe and very different way to experience an intimate hug-like satisfaction. She and Sara stood back-to-back, making physical contact, and gently breathed into each of their backs.
Sara described the enormous relief she felt at the experience of some safe physical contact with another human being. The blessed balm of relaxing with another was immediately familiar to experience another body breathing against her body, yet also a surprise.
“That was such a deliciously comforting and heart-warming experience!” was her immediate response.
Yes, we have a front and back aspect to our hearts, yet rarely think to breathe behind us.
This unusual physical positioning jogged my memory from an event fourteen years ago.
I was co-facilitating a program for children in Connecticut called Peaceful Touch. The original curriculum came out of Sweden and was created from the dedicated belief that nourishing touch is necessary for humans of all ages, especially children. One of the exercises was to have each child sitting on the floor, cross-legged and back-to-back with another child. It offered enjoyable support, literal and metaphorical, as they were encouraged to lean against each other equally, forming a perfect fulcrum. I would ask each child to focus on their breathing rhythms and feel their partner’s breath.
What would often emerge, quite naturally, was a synchronization of each other’s breath when the two children would be breathing as one unit. The sensation was so calming and grounding. I could feel the whole room settle into a sense of quiet wonder and peace during this exercise, like the stillness that falls upon a beautiful twilight evening.
It is a scientific fact that caring human touch breeds positive connection, safety, growth, and peace. All kinds of health-affirming natural hormones, like Oxytocin, flow through the bloodstream when we can relax into a friendly hug or caring embrace. Oxytocin has an impressive reputation and is a primary anti-stress chemical vital for everybody and every facet of life.
Here are 12 other ways to experience Oxytocin’s life-affirming benefits, many of which I hope you are already utilizing:-
- Receiving or giving a massage (of course, I’m biased, yet I’m also right!).
- Enjoying good-tasting nutritious foods & drinks.
- Listening to or creating your own music.
- Telling someone how much you care about them.
- Using movement, dancing, or exercising in ways that you enjoy.
- Being in good company where you can feel safe and secure. Zooming has been invaluable for this.
- Hugging, hand-holding, cuddling.
- Enjoying sexual intimacy and orgasms – with a partner and/or flying solo.
- Practicing random acts of kindness towards others.
- Having a pet to love and care for.
- Being out in nature, in conditions you enjoy.
Who knows, maybe back-to-back will become the new face to face! Either way, it’s still a life-affirming heart-to-heart connection.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are my own views, for the reader’s information and education only. This does not constitute legal, medical, or psychological advice. Where individuals have been named, I have had their express permission to quote them here, or I have changed names, gender, and circumstances to protect all individuals’ privacy completely.