Play IRL - Getting Off the Screen and into Touch

Ok, I think it’s time I begin to address the elephant in the (proverbial) room…play and technology.  For many of us, our adult “recess” involves a screen – gaming, Netflix, funny youtube cat videos… you know what I mean.

First, I have an important note of clarity.  I am NOT condemning screens.  I am NOT suggesting you abandon your technologies.  So, don’t panic. What I AM trying to encourage is an understanding of how physical connection offers a plethora of benefits to our happiness, physical health, and collective wellbeing.  If you’re a video-game fiend, and that outlet offers you pleasure and stress relief – you won’t hear me tell you to give it up.  AND please also don’t substitute your screen-time for in person touches.

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"To touch is to give Life."

-Michelangelo

As humans, we are wired for processing information through touch.  We have boatloads of neurons in our skin for this specific purpose.  Touch builds cooperative relationships and reinforces reciprocity.  Science tells us that human touch signals safety, soothes, calms cardiovascular stress, activates the vagus nerve, and releases oxytocin (which is the thing that promotes cooperation).  Additionally, touch activates the frontal cortex, which is the hub for reward stimuli and compassion; basically, it makes us feel good.

Touch has huge benefits on our physical health as human beings.  It’s how we are programmed to connect.

Interpersonal touch not only has a special role in early human development but continues to be crucial across the span of human social life, promoting trust and cooperation and thereby influencing our perceptions of others.”
— David Linden, Neuroscientist

There’s an abundance of research that shows us the power of touch.  From doubling the likelihood that a student speaks out in class, to reducing depression in patients with Alzheimers, to helping pre-mature babies gain weight, to improving an array of serious illnesses…it’s been proven again and again that we are better when we are in physical contact.

From my observations (of being a human being in 2017) I witness less human contact, and way more eyes-to-phone behavior.  I’m not suggesting we hug unsuspecting strangers in line at the coffee shop… but I think looking people in the eye makes us feel less isolated, more human.  My friends tell me, “You are a magician at meeting new people and making friends.”  I don’t think I have a special skillset or unique approachability.  I think it’s just that I’m willing to acknowledge people; I don't consider myself too important to take a second to glance up, give a kind smile and remain open.  It is my belief that this lack of basic recognition of one another fuels the increase in narcissism and division in our society.

So, since I’m all about p l a y…. let’s make this fun.  Here’s a short list of the first few things that came to my mind.  But, of course, the possibilities are incredibly expansive…endless really. (And, in case its not blatantly obvious, that even though a touch may be loving, it NEEDS to be appropriate in its context)

Hug

Dance Together

Give High Fives

Hold Hands

Chest Bump in Celebration

Tickle

Loving Hand on the Back to Comfort Someone

Thumb Wrestle

Play Sports

Does touching sound awkward?  Anything we don’t regularly do is at first, though, right?  And you’ve got science on your side.  It’s been shown that a lot of touches help you to live longer.  And I suspect – it may nudge us towards more peace.

 

Go! Play! (Together)

Cailin Robinson