Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden
Happy National Hugging Day!
A fellow college student once said to me many years ago, “Sometimes I need a simple touch or a hug. My skin gets hungry. You know what I mean?”
We feed out tummies readily enough. Some days we feed our minds. If we feed our souls at all, it is often a limited effort. When do we feed our skin?
Babies who receive hugs thrive better than those who do not. There is standard agreement on this point all around the world. Volunteers who hold babies born addicted to drugs or alcohol do a great service, perhaps improving that child’s whole life. Mothers and fathers who touch their children and hug them also are investing in their offsprings’ overall emotional and physical health.
While physical touch benefits our emotions, they also can bring us better health. For instance, cardiomyopathy and heart attacks can be induced by broken hearts.* Stress hormones lower when we receive and offer hugs.** Want to feel better? Feeding your skin may be part of your overall answer.
I don’t know about you, but I feel more secure when someone holds me. I love it when my sons give me hugs. It boosts my morale and lowers stress levels. This is common among adults. Kind physical touch induces a sense of well-being, connection, and even trust. It is about our basic need for belonging, which when met can lead to positive feelings, even happiness. Hugs make us feel less lonely.
Of course, this involves brain chemicals and hormones which in some relationships can lead to lovely romantic experiences. However, “skin-hunger” is not about sex. Sad stories that have come my way include people searching desperately for a loving touch, selling out to the lowest bidder in hopes of finding that permanent security. Destruction and regret follow such choices.
Simply for the sake of clarity, allow me to mention the grave seriousness of unwanted touch. Abuse is about power and control. Hugging against a person’s resistance is a breach of private space. It is a violation. Physical touch is a matter of choice and respecting another’s right to choose. Humans who experience skin-hunger want it fed and to experience safety in the process.
Well, today’s the day! Reach out to someone near you, and with their permission give them a gentle squeeze. You could add happiness to each of you at a deeper level than perhaps you imagined.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.