Does our wellbeing depend on more touch?

We’re social beings. Interaction and deep connections with others aren’t just a nice thing to have in life — they’re essential for our physical and psychological wellbeing.

And an important part of human connection is touch. Experts from the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology and neurology have found time and time again that touch allows us to communicate emotion; to empathise with others; to feel good; and to develop trusting, intimate relationships.

 But in the present moment, with the rise of social media, self-service and online shopping, and other experiences now taking place online instead of face-to-face, social touch is becoming a less frequent interaction in our lives. Some thinkers are concerned about the future of wellbeing in a tech-saturated world; and touch could play an important role in whether or not we’re able to thrive.

 But let’s take an optimistic view; let’s create opportunities for social touch

 I could chat for hours about the gap left in our lives by less touch, and more internet; about its impact on loneliness, anxiety, and stress.

But I want to take a positive view. How can we create more opportunities for social touch? And by that I mean non-sexual, positive, and empathetic touch?

There are chances to rebuild our understanding of how to interact with each other through touch in lots of different industries and practices; from dance and yoga to the way we teach our kids. And as a beauty professional, I see the potential in what I do, too.

 In daily beauty practices there are loads of opportunities for positive social touch. Doing someone’s hair or makeup, or a more specialist treatment, involves touch and open communication. When we’re touching someone in this way — whether as a professional working with a client, or a friend helping a friend — we’re in tune with that person. We sense their boundaries, and feel when they need space, or when our touch is welcomed.

 Beauty as community

 So perhaps we could work to build stronger communities around beauty practices. Maybe instead of just going through the motions, we could create new ways for people to interact and be present with one another — with phones switched off.

 Friends and family members could share their beauty routines instead of only ever going about those practices in the privacy of the bathroom. Do that classic thing of getting together for a face mask and a chat. And beauty professionals could teach more; host workshops that facilitate people to help each other with beauty and skincare techniques, and touch each other in a supportive, conscious, empathetic way.

 Do you think the beauty industry could support more positive social touch? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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