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Pocket of Joy: Human Touch

Are you vaxxed, relaxxed, and ready to satiate your touch starvation? It is time!

All human persons need skin-to-skin contact sometimes, even those who value their personal space. It doesn't have to be sexual or intense, but we can't do without it indefinitely. The gentle, electric exchange that occurs between two animal bodies that meet in meatspace boosts our immune systems. It calms the vagus nerve, the heart, experiences of both physical and emotional pain, and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Going without touch for too long can lead to depression, anxiety, and behaviors that exacerbate social isolation. And loneliness can erode bodily health faster than cigarettes.

All humans need touch, but it doesn't always have to be human-to-human. Pets can provide beneficial snuggles and wrassles to a person who lives alone. Volunteering at an animal shelter and petting kittens and puppies to socialize them can benefit the human petter too.

Hugging a friend you haven't seen in a year or more, or even exchanging the occasional pat on the back, shoulder, or arm can go a long way in helping lonesome people feel loved and included again, as long as the touching feels safe to everyone involved.

A day at the spa can be rejuvenating with less social anxiety. Massage therapists, manicurists, and hair stylists can provide soothing touch in a safe, professional environment where you aren't expected to provide touch or witty commentary in exchange, just money.

For those who aren't shy about their personal space but aren't touchy-feely emotional types, roughhousing touch can be invigorating. Contact sports, martial arts, dancing in groups, moshing, and crowdsurfing can all induce a natural rush of endorphins.

And for sexual people, of course, there's sex. 

But within a romantic relationship, it's important to show love with non-sexual touch too, which in turn builds trust, affection, and confidence that can circle back and contribute to a better sex life. Couples can take a sweaty tango or salsa lesson together, give each other back scratches or long massages, or do a couples workout. They can go outside and ride a tandem bicycle or be each other's belay partners for rock climbing. They can brush and style each other's hair or just cuddle on the couch while binging Love It or List It.

As we come out of a long year of touch starvation for some and for others, the doldrums of "mating in captivity" or the overwhelm of being climbed on by children and pets all day, every day, especially while working from home, I hope you find your own best ways to reconnect with the joys of pleasurable, relaxing, and soul-sustaining human touch.

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