What the World Needs Now

The importance of connecting with our loved ones on a physical level

By: Sylvia Slezak

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No not just for some, but for everyone.” These are the beginning lines of a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David, music composed by Burt Bacharach, first recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon. The world still needs love even in 2015.

We are social creatures and all of us need other people in order to be well and to thrive. We feel better just being around other people, and we need close relationships in order to be happy. Michelangelo was right when he stated that “To touch can be to give life.”

The benefits start from the moment we are born. Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for five to 10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who had received standard medical treatment.

There are studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, and that it soothes. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger the release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.”

Research and data strongly suggest that we not only need to connect, but are wired to connect with other people on a basic physical level. We would be depriving ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts were we to deny that.

There’s something intangibly real and valuable about talking with someone face-to-face. This is significant for friends, partners, potential employers and other recurring people who make up your everyday world. That person becomes an important existing human connection, not just someone whose disembodied text voice pops up on your cell phone, iPad or computer screen.

This holiday season, as the 2015 year ends and the 2016 begins, take a good, hard look at your life and your lifestyle. Maybe it’s time to step back and get a realistic perspective of how we live. Are we really present in mind and spirit or just the body, while our mind is distracted by electronic smart-devices?

Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow isn’t here yet. There is no better time than the present. Make the best of what you have, where you are and what you can do to reach out to those who love you and care about you. Before you know it, they may be gone, either for a while or forever from your sight. Linger an extra minute with your loved ones.

Physical contact distinguishes humans from other animals. From a warm handshake or a sympathetic hug to a congratulatory pat on the back, we have developed complex languages, cultures and emotional expression through physical contact. But in a tech-saturated world, non-sexual human touch is in danger of becoming rare, if not obsolete. Despite the benefits of digital advancement, it is vital to preserve human touch in order for us to truly thrive.

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