Monday 28 November 2016

Universtiy of Miami Faculty to Study the Benefits of Touch

I love the idea that there is a professional research institute into the benefits of human touch.

Skin-Hungry - Not just a Zombie Problem Anymore

Multiple studies are being performed which are revealing the wide-range effects of people not receiving touch... a condition referred to as being "skin-hungry".

"Touching each other keeps the peace," explains Dr Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute.  In high-touch cultures, incidence of violence, loneliness and depression are lower than in low-touch cultures.  In North America, we've created a culture that is particularly deprived of physical contact, particularly among males.

Touch-hunger, or skin-hunger create a host of psychological problems, as proven by studies about inmates in solitary confinement, and on infant rhesus macaques. 

It's possible to be touch hungry and not even know it—or even to mistake your symptoms for poor mental health. "People who are touch hungry usually present as being depressed individuals," Field says. "They're withdrawn; their voice intonation contour is flat." She adds that people suffering from clinical depression may also often suffer from touch hunger—and this can be seen in an area of the brain called the vagus. "When you massage these people, their depression levels go down and their vagal activity goes up."

We know about the healing power of touch.  Now we just need to foster the culture and institutions that support touch as a way to solve problems, rather than seeing it as a problem.

Thursday 3 November 2016

How Good News and Bad News Affect Our Health

"If it bleeds, it leads" is a common refrain heard in news rooms, at least according to every Hollywood movie I've seen on the topic of media.  However, after the initial "positive effect" (as in increase in ratings) of an avalanche of negative news, there comes a breaking point where people become desensitized to the information presented, and then disengage entirely, seeking out ignorance as the balm to their frazzled nerves.

Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor at University of Texas–San Antonio,has conducted a study proving that negative news leads to increased levels of helplessness, hopelessness, depression, isolation, anxiety, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitization to the information presented and eventual disengagement.

In another study, Jodie Jackson, MSc in Positive Psychology, a research associate for the Constructive Journalism Project found that reading news stories that focus on solutions, achievements and peace building can lead to increased levels of optimism, hope and self-efficacy, where people believe the world can get better and they feel empowered to contribute. 

It has also shown that people have improved mood levels, better perspective, a restored faith in humanity, higher levels of active coping and increased engagement. Harvard professor Steven Pinker has long advised that the world, despite what we read in the news, is, in fact, actually in an upwards spiral.

It is important to note that reporting positive news does not require that we ignore negative news; rather, it requires that we not ignore positive news and that, where feasible, we include it into the wider narrative.  

To keep people coming back for more, and to better reflect the whole-world's experience, we need to be move beyond "Bleed Leads" to "Try Symmetry"

Read the whole article at: