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What Would Leo Do?

Everybody needs a hug. It changes your metabolism. ~ Leo Buscaglia

Leo Buscaglia

Some of my friends know just how much admiration and fondness I have for the late Leo Buscaglia. He has inspired me to change careers, but that is a remarkable story for another time. I used to watch Leo on PBS in the ’80s with my mother. You can still watch and enjoy some of his talks on YouTube. If you have read any of his books or heard him speak, then you know that he is a hugger. He talked about his large, affectionate Italian family as often as possible. I could imagine if he was told that he needed to “social distance” from others. He would cry out in disbelief. 

It would have been fascinating to hear his observations about social distancing and what he had experienced. I think Leo would survive during the quarantine, still teaching, still learning, always finding the beauty in and experiencing life. Eventually, I suppose that not being able to hug anybody would get to him like it has gotten to all of us. Hugging was the one thing he loved to do. The one thing he was known for doing. The one thing that others wanted to experience with him.

I’ve always been affectionate with my kids. We hug every day. I pick the kids up at the daycare, they’ll sit on my lap, we’ll read a story, and they also think that Miss Lisa is a trampoline. It’s hard to refuse a hug when a child runs up and gives you one or puts their head on your shoulder because they’re tired or want to be comforted. I haven’t been able to do it. Touch is essential to our development, processing, and our overall health. Human touch is an important part of non-verbal communication. When used properly, it can trigger a wide-range of different positive emotions, including relaxation, comfort, security, or joy, according to Steven Handel, The Psychology of Human Touch: Why Physically Connecting With Others Improves Well-Being; The Emotion Machine. It helps establish trust at the beginning of a relationship, i.e., shaking hands. I don’t know if we will reinstate this custom when the quarantine lifts. I do know one thing, and that is to look out for the huggers! After not seeing our friends for a month or so, we hunger for connection and affection. Offering a hug to a stranger who you have made a connection with, who you might be comforting or hugging a good friend, is a different form of intimacy than you have with your spouse or significant other. 

A recent Harvard study looked at what is working to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It states that we will probably have recurrent wintertime outbreaks. The primary intervention that has worked in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 is social distancing. To keep these outbreaks from recurring, we may have to follow social distancing measures until 2022. What does that mean for our physical and mental health? No one knows. According to social psychologist, Dr. Brooke Feeney, of Carnegie Mellon University who stated on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s podcast, Dating at a Distance, “If we don’t find these other creative ways to connect, it remains to be seen how well we can continue to use remote connections as a proxy for the more physical connections. But I think the core issue that underlies it all is what touch communicates.”

Feeney continues, “And so, I think what we have to do during the pandemic is just find other ways to communicate to our loved ones that we’re available to them if they need us, even though we can’t be physically proximal to them right now. It might be more difficult to communicate that remotely, but I think we can do it.”

We have become acquainted with vulnerability and our need for connection during this quarantine. We see how they go hand in hand. No pun intended in this time of nontactile communication. It will be interesting to see the repercussions of not experiencing a physical connection with others over a long period. There will be a formulation of new rules for non-verbal communication and etiquette. Our physical and mental health will heal over time at our own pace. We will get through this.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep the faith!


©LS Wellness, LLC

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