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?
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.
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!) 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!