Personal space and why we should touch more

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The other day, someone brushed their hand against my leg by accident in class and they quickly apologized and went back to sitting scrunched up tightly. It’s normal to act this way; I act like that all the time too. I actually really dislike having people I don’t know on a personal level in my space. Most Americans feel this way actually. We like our space, we don’t touch or hug strangers. We keep to ourselves and when someone crosses the invisible bubble and gets in our space, we automatically feel extremely uncomfortable and back up to ensure there remains a certain amount of space between the two people.

It’s interesting because I never really noticed this before. I mean, it’s normal. But truth is, each culture has a different amount of personal space they need – not entirely surprisingly, Americans require the most amount of personal space. It’s interesting because as far as I know Americans also are very friendly as opposed to say, Eastern Europeans. I grew up in Poland and strangers did not smile and say hi to each other just for the mere sake of greeting and saying “how are you” without really caring about the answer. This is something I noticed when I moved to the US – people here are so superficially “nice”. They ask how you are if you’re just walking past their house, although I know they couldn’t care less about your answer. But yet, even though they act so seemingly nice and friendly, they are actually a lot more wary of having their own personal space and get uncomfortable the most quickly if someone crosses itno that personal bubble. It’s an interesting and ironic thing, isn’t it?

File:Personal Space.svg

I’m not going to get into the descriptions of various stages of personal space and what it means because I’m pretty sure everyone understands what I’m talking about. I realize that personal space is important and all of us have their own certain limit – it varies from person to person even within cultures. The fact of the matter is – we don’t touch. I haven’t realized this before but this simple accident in class made me realize how little we touch others during the day, unless it’s family or someone very close to us.

The thing is – as social creatures we NEED touch. Touch is a very deep and innate need of every single one of us. As babies, touch is what helps children develop normally – they need a nurturing touch in order to grow properly, both physically and emotionally. Human contact is a crucial part of life for people of all ages. So there goes my next point – since we don’t touch a lot as adults and teenagers because of the personal space issues, this could be a reason why so many people are depressed. I mean, this is my own speculation of course. But it’s unavoidable to say that human contact is something we need and crave as human beings for proper growth and development, for peace and ease of anxiety, ease of tension, and expression of love and affection. It’s an innate need, we don’t just get rid of it, and we can’t go without it.

ย This made me realize how little I touch others as well. I see my parents less than once a week and I touch and hug them. I see friends once in a while and we sometimes hug when we see each other. But unless you are an extremely social being (which I’m not) or live with a significant other or family, you don’t get to experience human touch as often as you probably should (which might be my case). It’s interesting.

I make sure to get massages at least once every two months and I already told you guys how amazing they are. If you don’t massages semi-regularly, I totally recommend you start. It’s amazing and such a wonderful stress relief – especially if you work out. It makes me feel so good. Ever heard of “touch therapy?” Yes, it’s an actual thing and it can help people relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, physical and emotional stress relief, as well as increase happiness if done regularly.

I want to conclude with this: touch those who you love. Don’t go touching strangers, because that’s weird and you don’t want them to think you’re some weirdo that’s invading their space – but take advantage of the people who you are able to touch. Don’t take those close to you for granted. Touch makes everyone happier – so touch your loved ones. Go hug your mom and dad. Embrace your significant other. Cuddle up with your pet (yes, I read that works too!)ย Increase your happiness and develop deeper connections through the simple yet powerful effect of touch.

Sources: eduPASS, Wikipedia, Lifelessons4u, Livestrong, eHow, Berkeley, USA Today, Lizprovazi

Kammie wants to know:

  • Do you spend a lot of time alone?

  • Do you think touching is important or can we get by without it?

Let me know in the comments below!

21 Comments

  1. This is really interesting – I’m a huggy person so I’m always hugging my family and friends!

  2. I laugh – people say I am a hugger… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. YES YES YES
    I am an elderly Jewish aunt trapped in my 43 year old touching everyone body.

  4. This is really interesting. I never thought about how fake our kindness can be – especially down here in the South! I swear everyone I pass speaks to me, then doesn’t really wait for a response. haha maybe they need a hug??

  5. Oh my, I have a friend who has no concept of personal space and whenever she has been over or out with my other friends, they always comment on it afterwards.

  6. Great post! This had me thinking – a big deal for a Monday ๐Ÿ˜‰ I touch people much more than I used to. I never used to hug … and now I do it all the time! Maybe I crave more of a connection? Hmm…

  7. I love this post! And did you know that if you hug for about 7 seconds, your brain will release oxytocin? The same feel good hormone that breast feeding moms produce! In my house, we time our hugs; “count to seven, feels like heaven”!

    • I KNEW I was getting at something! Makes sense, I think I read about this somewhere but I forgot. That’s pretty awesome that you hug that long ๐Ÿ™‚ I need to start hugging people more, I don’t even remember the last time I hugged someone for longer than 2 seconds ๐Ÿ™

  8. Such a great point. I’m not the most huggy person but you are right – personal touch is so important.

  9. I feel so lucky to be able to hold hands and snuggle up with Josh. Touch is important!

  10. NO! that is all.. but good write up.. lol

  11. Great post. I really agree. Society does not promote touching or intimacy between people in general and I think that way of living just ends up making people behave rudely because we “don’t have to care” about other people. I like that you brought this up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I agree! I am a touchy person for sure! People don’t respond well to it all the time!!! lol And as a single woman it gets me in trouble! Just sayin!

    • Haha that’s why I said we should touch more those who it is appropriate to touch, like close friends or family ๐Ÿ™‚ Heck, I like my personal space too, I’d be weirded out if some stranger kept trying to get in my bubble, ya know? But it’s important that we show affection to those we care about.

  13. I am torn between being a hugger and being raised by a hard working German Mother who was not generous with hugs, kisses or praise, occasionally when people hug me it feels uncomfortable because I am not used to it.

  14. Very interesting post! It definitely got me thinking. I would say I’m a very touchy touchy person. I hug and kiss people when I greet them, and I always hold hands and link arms with my friends! However, I get verryy uncomfortable if someone sits, hovers, or stands too close to me. It drives me crazy!

  15. Love this! And that is great point about the question of depression in teenagers and adults. Of course, with the younger generations, human contact is decreasing more and more. It’s amazing how many teenagers these days don’t know how to carry on a REAL conversation with another person…and eye contact? Ha! Yeah right!

    Since I work in the medical field, I do my best to use touch as a form of reducing anxiety in my patients AND to show that I really do care about them feeling better. It’s just something that comes natural to me (guess it’s a Southern hospitality thing), but I’ve noticed that people really respond to it.

    PS, I want to squeeze that kitten! Soooo cute!

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