Looking to cultivate more connection with yourself—and with others? Want to experience the oneness versus otherness so many yoga teachers talk about? This sequence will show you how…
Remember when you got a boo-boo as a kid and your parent kissed the pain away? Ever notice how a hug seems to make things feel better? Turns out it is not magic. Touch is a powerful and necessary aspect of healing and survival.
When we are in pain, hugs can be a balm for the soul. When we are in joy, they are a way to share that experience. Physical touch helps us feel in synch with something greater than ourselves. It literally brings people together, permeating our physical layer and dissolving the divide between “us” and “other”.
Humans are not alone in needing touch and contact. Our dog, Tucker, begs for cuddles like other dogs beg for food. He will literally cut off his air supply if it means being close us. Google “animals hugging” and any worry you have will instantly melt away as you scroll through images of various creatures nuzzling against each other. (Pro tip: Add the word “cute” to your search to up the ante.) Turns out it is a very mammalian thing to do.
Touch is crucial for overall health and well-being. All of us need connection to thrive.
Research Proves the Importance of Touch and Connection
Psychologist Harry Harlow turned the field of psychology upside down in the late 1050s when his research found that being cuddled and comforted outweighed being fed in the hierarchy of what is important for human development. This experiment was revolutionary, as it came during a period where it was believed that the only things human beings needed for survival were food and shelter.
In his experiment, Harlow looked at baby rhesus monkeys who were separated from their mothers at birth. His team tested different types of surrogate “mothers” in the monkey’s cages and observed who the baby monkeys were drawn to for both literal nourishment (read: food) and emotional nourishment (contact and comfort). The first “mother” was a wire figurine with a bottle as food source; the second “mother” was a cozy, terrycloth figurine, which would sometimes have food and sometimes not.
The baby monkeys chose the cloth mama, even when she did not have food. In fact, the monkeys would take what nourishment they needed from the wire “mother” and then run right back to the cloth “mama.” If something scared them, they ran to the cloth “mom” first, every single time.