Are You Touch Deprived? These Sources of Affection Could Actually Improve Your Health

“Skin hunger” sounds like the title of a zombie movie, but it’s actually another term for touch deprivation—a need for human contact that can lead to depression and stress. From spin class to work then happy hour and dinner, our busy lives leave us making more connections through Tinder than touch. It’s time to put down your phone and give these things a try.

  1. Schedule a regular massage. Here’s the deal: compared to people who are frequently touched, those who feel more affection-deprived are more likely to be unhappy, lonely, and to experience depression and stress. Studies also show an overall decline in health in those who are touch deprived. Scheduling a massage will not only keep you as relaxed as a sloth in a bubble bath but will send you off with an uplifted attitude.
  2. Make a point to hug with “hello” and “goodbye.” I wouldn’t recommend hugging your boss when you arrive at work, but make it a habit to greet family and friends with open arms. One study showed that children who are cuddled more grow up to be happier adults. Just because you’re a big kid who grew out of that adorable pair of overalls doesn’t mean the hugging should stop. Just as children get held when they fall down, we should seek affection after getting yelled at by our boss, fighting with our significant others, and paying our taxes.
  3. Netflix, chill, and cuddle. If you’re going to binge-watch Orange Is The New Black for hours at a time, you may as well get some benefits from it. Cuddle up under a cozy blanket with your partner or bestie. Simply linking arms or a head on their shoulder will give you the extra boost of happiness that you need.
  4. Adopt a pet or volunteer at an animal shelter. Reptiles and insects aside, pets of the fluffy and cuddly variety are a great way to satisfy skin hunger. Science says that people who snuggle up with their pets have lower blood pressure, heart-disease risk, anxiety, and depression. Owning a pet is a huge commitment and if you’re spending most of the day at the office, it may not make sense. Head to your local animal shelter and offer to volunteer one day a week. Not only will it be helping you, your new four-legged friends will be eternally grateful for the hugs and kisses.
  5. Schedule time with a Cuddle Buddy. Before you think that this sounds ridiculous, remember that it’s a real thing. If you’re going through a bad breakup and feel the void of human contact, reach out to a friend who could also use some snuggle time. Maybe don’t call up the guy friend who’s been in love with you for years, though. He’ll definitely get the wrong idea.
  6. There’s nothing wrong with friends with benefits. Your cuddle buddy could very likely become a friend with benefits if the lighting is just right. A friends with benefits situation is not for everyone, but if you’re craving a sexual form of touch without the strings attached, this may be for you. However, make sure you set some ground rules because things can get messy.
  7. Spend more time with your nieces and nephews. Aside from the occasional tantrum and snot rocket, little ones can offer a ton of affection. Chances are, your nieces and nephews worship the ground you walk on. Read a book to them while they sit on your lap, carry them on your hip every moment you can, and hug them tightly when they fall down. Before you know it, they’ll be in the angsty teenager phase and you’ll no longer be cool.
  8. Give in to the guy holding the “Free Hugs” sign. That guy must be the happiest dude in the city with all that affection. Hugs have also been shown to increase the production of oxytocin, aka the “love hormone” in humans, and huggers had smaller increases in their blood pressure. This hormone is released into the body only after physical contact lasting about eight seconds. So, when you go in for that hug, don’t rush it!
  9. If you’re prone to touch deprivation, find a partner who’s physically affectionate. Just as you look for other attributes in your significant other, if you’re known to be affected by lack of touch, it is important to find someone who is willing to shower you with affection. Don’t worry, I won’t judge you for all of the excessive PDA.
Caitlyn is a freelance writer living in Washington D.C.