The Comeback of Hugs

~Cheryl Perry

It feels almost like a confession to admit it: before COVID19, I was a hugger.
Quite suddenly in mid-March that habit had to change.

We know the importance of touch. It is thought to be one of the first senses humans develop and it is so important that studies have shown babies who are denied touch and human contact do not develop (physically, emotionally) normally.

If you have a dog or cat you probably already know the benefits that petting them, snuggling with them, can have for you. In children and adults, handling an animal, petting its fur, feeling its presence, is comforting and calming. While practicing physical distancing from others, touching a pet can be a simple reminder that we are still a living, breathing, feeling creature.

Christina Bach, a counsellor and social worker, suggests that if you don’t have a pet, you can try something called “mindful touching.” If you are someone who likes to bake, for instance, take time to really pay attention to how it feels. Notice the textures of the ingredients. Kneading dough can be an excellent exploration in mindful touching. How does the dough feel as it comes together? How does the texture change?

Other spaces you can try mindful touch include, gardening, fibre work (knitting, crochet, quilting), and other crafts. Even folding laundry! There are also mindful touch meditations available via apps like Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer.

For those that live alone especially, replacing human contact, for now, is important to maintain our well-being. Perhaps you have been trying mindful touch without even knowing it. What is helping you cope with the absence of touch in your life?

Herman Roodenburg, a cultural historian at the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam notes that the kiss has “had its moments of crisis” too. England’s King Henry VI banned the act in 1439 to combat an epidemic of bubonic plague that had ravaged Europe for nearly a century. It was likely an act of self-preservation, as kissing wasn’t common among peasants, but it was how knights paid homage to the king!

Still, Roodenburg notes, its symbolic importance in religious ritual—“the kiss of peace” exchanged among Christians, for example—kept it in social consciousness. Marcel Danesi, an anthropology professor at the University of Toronto and author of The History of the Kiss!, predicts that though the handshake and the kiss have disappeared for a time, when this latest pandemic finally goes away we should expect a resurgence.

?“Touch is critical in human interaction,” he says. “In one way or another, it will make a comeback.”

That makes me so happy I could hug myself!