How much human contact do you have every day? In her book Seize the Day, the french psychologist Marie de Hennezel says: “Certainly we touch other people, but that’s when the intention is erotic. At other times, the context is impersonal, as in the medical sphere”. We rarely dare to engage in friendly gestures, in case it is taken the wrong way. Yet, “it’s an exercise for everyone to experience how good it feels to receive a touch that comes without any burden or desire or demand”.

Volunteers with Action for Happiness, a movement that is comitted to a happier society, give out hugs to passers-by on the street. They believe such gestures are the most effective acts of kindness. Physically touching somebody shows the recipient you are concentrating soley on them. Emotions are often expressed more clearly through touch than words and physical contact is also linked to feelings of reward and compassion, while also being soothing and building trust.

“Sometimes, there’s no substitute for the touch of a hand. It embodies the sense of true meeting”, de Hennezel writes. In some cases, contact is so profound that although “nothing is said, we are together”.

Lisa Parhad, Sunday Times Style Magazine, 19th February 2012

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