Woman sitting alone. Image: Anthony Tran via Unsplash

Humans Are Not Designed To Physically Distance

I cannot remember the last time I gave a hug. And that’s coming from someone who regularly greets with a warm embrace. So now I have to suffice with an elbow or footsie, and doesn’t that sound depressing…

The fact is, humans are not designed to physically distance. We always need affection, even from our friends and acquaintances.

We hug for compassion and handshake for loyalty.

We clutch shoulders for support and caress faces for love.

And sometimes we copulate for various reasons; even if it’s just for release.

But that’s all changed now…

Thanks to COVID-19, we actively avoid each other, subconsciously thinking if someone around us has it. And avoidance is by far the worst part of loneliness — no matter which side you’re on.

You either feel unwanted or you’re yearning for some sort of acceptance. For a sense of belonging in a climate where togetherness is now a social taboo.

But we cannot expect everyone to be physically distant from everyone else.

Our Bodies Need To Be Touched

Being touched is not a fetish for the few, it’s a universal trait that all humans have. And when you’re not getting enough, it can become a problem.

According to Healthline, ‘skin hunger’ or ‘touch starvation’ “occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things.” And it can cause physical problems as well as affect your mental state.

When you’re touched in the right way — whether it’s a side hug or a light brush on the arm — the body releases oxytocin. This makes you feel good.

In fact, the power of touch has important calming effects, both mentally and physically. It can slow down racing hearts, soothe agitated nervous systems and regulate the body into a better working state. This includes the immune system.

Touch even combats the awful feeling of loneliness. The right embrace from the right person is what’s necessary for human survival.

Which is why complete physical distancing is impossible for us humans.

So How Do We Survive?

Dealing with COVID-19 is a bit like sex and steering clear of STIs. Most doctors will say it’s safer to limit your sexual partners, especially if you’re averse to using condoms. Because if you stick with one, you won’t spread anything even if you do catch something. And that’s what many of us need to learn if we’re going to combat this global pandemic better.

For many of you, attaining that elusive human touch is simple. You live with your partners, parents or even friends under the same roof. You have your own bubble where physical distancing isn’t entirely necessary.

But for some us, the human touch is impossible to get without opening up our bubble.

It goes against the global outcry of staying 1.5 metres apart (or 6 ft), but the fact is we cannot survive without physical interaction. So it seems there needs to be some leeway for some of us who aren’t part of a housing bubble; who live in our own little worlds.

Of course, this is not to say we should be allowed to frolic about with all our friends. Keeping the distance and wearing a protective face mask is still on the cards here. But we should be allowed one person to mingle freely with.

And Remember: It’s Not Forever

At the going rate of vaccine trials across the world, we should hopefully see a dependable virus by sometime next year. In fact, more than 150 countries are in the process of finding a suitable vaccine, according to the World Health Organisation.

This means that there will come a time where we can truly be together. Where we can huddle on packed trains and only worry about body odour. Where we can fill up a stadium and feel the true roar of support. Or where we can sit down to a fancy brunch with friends.

That time will come. And when it does, we’ll be totally ready for it!

Feature image: Anthony Tran via Unsplash

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