The need for human touch

There was a controversial experiment done in the 1940s. Newborn infants were separated into two groups. One group was placed in a sterile facility and were provided with food, were bathed and changed as necessary, but weren’t given any more physical touch than absolutely required for these tasks. Apart from that, there was no communication with the children but the nature of the conditions in which they were being raised ensured that they never became ill.

After four months, nearly half of the infants in this sterile environment had died and the experiment was stopped. The babies were physically healthy and there were no physiological causes for their death. This experiment revealed the vital importance of affection and touch in raising healthy children and showed that without touch children can die from the lack of affection. Meanwhile, the second group of babies in the experiment had all their basic needs met and were also given affection, and as a result no babies died in that group.

How many hugs do we need? Family therapist Virginia Satir once said: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” While that may sound like a lot of hugs, it seems that many hugs are better than not enough.
Now add into the mix of needing human touch the Coronavirus. How are we to stay healthy when we are needing to quarantine due to the virus? Even prior to the virus, were you giving and receiving at least 8 hugs a day?
People are starting to show signs of loneliness due to sheltering in place. Yes, they are attending Zoom meetings. Yes, they are texting with friends and family. Yes, they are putting on their masks and walking the trails and neighborhood. 
But what to do about needing human contact and connection? 
How to tell if you’re lonely? Sometimes we don’t know how we feel. We can rely on looking at our behavior to become clearer on what we feel. Feeling lonely does not feel comfortable. So, we do things to mask or hide the uncomfortable feelings. 

Ways to combat loneliness 

The feelings of loneliness that you are experiencing don't have to stick around. Here are some things you can do to start feeling better.

Focus on your friendships

Working to improve the friendships you already have can improve the way you feel and battle the symptoms of your loneliness. Zoom, texting, emailing and calling friends is a way to keep connected. You can deepen and develop your friendships even when social distancing. 

Get comfortable being in your own company 

Being comfortable with your own self can help you not feel as lonely. You can work on your comfort level by meditating, doing things on your own like watching favorite movies, keeping a gratitude journal, make a counseling appointment, taking online courses etc.

Practice small talk 

Get on the Zoom calls a minute or two early and catch up with whomever is on the call early. While walking the neighborhood say hello to folks. It’s difficult to just smile as your mask is hiding your face! Do the same with neighbors whom you see. 

Get in touch with your family 

Sometimes simply getting back in touch with your family can help relieve symptoms of loneliness. Set up a weekly call with your sister, email your cousin, write a letter to a grandparent, and see your mood start to improve. 

Meet like-minded people 

You can join activities that you like—group studies, traveling talks, Meet Ups that are virtual. While joining these online activities, look around. You and the others have this interest in common. 


Whatever “nature” looks like to you: Gardening, walking the neighborhood, mowing the grass, finding nature shows on TV or online. Nature is self-nurturing. Enjoy the beauty and the cycle of life.

There is no one who is not impacted by managing the Coronavirus. We are all in this together. Going through this time together is healthier and more healing than going it alone. 

Take care of yourself. You deserve to feel a part of rather than apart from.

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