- The problem with coronavirus isolation – why it makes you feel more pain
- Why holding hands reduces pain
- If this was a drug, it would sell like hotcakes
I’m the last person you’d accuse of being a hippy.
I don’t have long hair, for one thing.
Truth be told, I don’t have much hair at all.
But when I was young I didn’t really do all that lefty rebellion stuff.
I was a rugby player. A bit of a ‘lad’. Ate too much grub and to heck with my health!
I wasn’t bothered at all about other people, except my friends.
Something like this coronavirus, I might have thought, “Who cares, I am young and healthy.”
Back then I had a devil-may-care attitude…
“Everyone for themselves!”
That attitude lasted right up until I had kids.
Then I began to change…
It stopped being about me…
It was about the kids having a father who was alive – and a good role model.
So I made some life-changes.
A diet overhaul…
A new passion for nutrition…
And much more interest in the general health of the society in which my children would grow up.
I was no goody-goody, as I still loved my treats and the occasional over-indulgence, but I found a bit more balance.
Then I started writing for The Good Life Letter…
That was when I began to connect with many wonderful people out there with health problems; ranging from annoying niggles… to addictions to fatty, sugary food… to serious heart problems, joint pain and breathing difficulties.
And I realised that they were being screwed over by Big Pharma, the media, and other vested interests.
So I became passionate about helping people get the kind of advice and support they were lacking from the medical establishment.
Now I have to say I am a changed man.
I no longer believe that it’s every person for themselves.
We should band together to fight for our health and freedom against vested interests.
What’s more, I know that people live longer, healthier lives BECAUSE of other people. And that going it alone can be the worst thing for your wellbeing.
It’s the coronavirus situation that has got me thinking about this.
See, the way things are going, we could end up in lockdown with forced isolation for some or all of us.
This will have a serious impact on our physical health – and not just because we will do less exercise.
Here’s one reason why…
Why isolation makes you feel more pain
A study at the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Haifa, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2018.
It showed that when you hold the hand of a loved one, your breathing and heart rate synchronize with theirs, as do your brain waves.
It’s like your body is mirroring that other person.
This happens a lot in human society. For instance, do you notice that when you’re speaking with another person, you sometimes assume the same posture?
Suddenly, you realise that you’re both cross-legged, you’re both sitting bolt upright, or you both have your hands to your chin?
Well, your brain does this ‘mirroring’ too. And it has a positive effect on your reception of pain.
You see, the more you get ‘in synch’ with a trusted loved one, the more the sensations of pain fade away.
Author of the study, Pavel Goldstein, said that ‘empathetic touch’ can stimulate pain-killing reward mechanisms in your brain.
And here’s more to back up the benefits of human contact…
How skin stroking lowers blood pressure
Tiffany Field from the Touch Research Institute at Miami Medical School has looked into the effects of stroking the skin and points to these benefits:
- Slows down heart rate
- Reduces blood pressure
- Slows the release of cortisol
- Gives you better control over your stress hormones
- Boosts the immune system
- Increased serotonin, your body’s natural antidepressant
- Promotes deeper sleep
Imagine if I told you of a new drug or a superfood that did all those things!
You’d be rushing out to get it!
And yet this is what happens purely from compassionate, loving contact with another human being.
Psychologist Miriam Akhtar says, “From handshakes and hugs to cheek kissing or fist bumps, we demonstrate and create comfort with each other. Tactile stimulation can trigger oxytocin, the love hormone. It also lowers cortisol levels, reducing anxiety and stress.”
She also says that touch can “alleviate depression, improve immune function, reduce pain, enhance attentiveness, decrease blood pressure and calm the heart rate.”
So look, I don’t mean to come across like a hippy, I realise you should avoid contact with strangers while there’s a virus on the loose but if you have someone to hug, then do it!
It can dramatically boost your health and wellbeing – and bolster your immune system!
And if you know someone who is forced into isolation without a friend, family member or partner to be with them, then make sure they know they are not alone. While you might not be able to visit them in person, offer them a regular phone call, skype chat, or social media messages. That can help too.
Loneliness is one of society’s biggest killers.
During this epidemic it will be such a shame that lots of people will miss out on human contact when they most need it.
Of course, it’s not the only way to boost your immunity. In fact, on Sunday, I’ll tell you all about a surprising way to boost your immune system, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve digestion.
More at the weekend!