By Paula Damon
“Trouble, oh trouble set me free. I have seen your face, and it’s too much too much for me…”– Cat Stevens, songwriter
Keep watching the news and most of what you’ll see is trouble here, trouble there – trouble everywhere. Trouble at home and abroad. Trouble at school and at work. Trouble in big cities and small towns. Everywhere you look there are troubled plans and policies, troubled churches and businesses, troubled marriages and families, troubled hearts and minds.
At the risk of over simplifying the troubling state of humankind, the trouble is we rarely hold hands anymore. Seldom do we take another’s hand to guide or console. We hesitate to hold hands to lift spirits or mourn losses. When was the last time we clasped hands to plead or pray?
Oh, sure, every once in a while, we may see youngsters streaking across the playground or down the sidewalk holding hands. Their carefree arms swaying back and forth in harmony, their voices chiming with joy.
“Close your eyes and remember the last time someone held your hand for a while,” invites Sheryl Ness, R.N., a nurse educator at the Mayo Clinic. “Remember the warmth … and how it instantly made you relax?” she nudges.
“Human touch is powerful and can be an excellent way to bring your stress level down a notch or two,” continues Ness, who says touch relieves pain, reduces blood pressure and stress hormones and improves the immune system.
At the Mayo Clinic, Nurse Ness and others have created a program that provides healing touch through massage therapy for cancer patients to help them relax while receiving chemotherapy.
“It seems that as we experience touch,” she explains, “we focus on the feeling, warmth and relaxation it provides, instead of focusing on our worries, anxieties or pain. Any time we can refocus our mind to a relaxing place it has a positive effect on the body.”
In her work to encourage people to add more touch to their day, Ness instructs, “You can do this by reaching out to friends and family members by adding a little touch to the arm or a short hug when you greet them and talk to them. Hold your grandchildren in your lap or snuggle close while you read together. Hold hands or walk arm-in-arm with the one you love — it all makes such a difference.”
Being so preoccupied by flipping channels on our TV remotes and texting or talking on our phone, we probably don’t have enough hands or the attention span to hold hands.
World-renowned attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) expert Dr. Edward Hallowell, M.D., claims the secret to happiness is prioritizing the people who mean the most to us.
“We have to get rid of what hurts us or wastes our precious time…so we can involve ourselves fully in…whom we love. I think this is the secret to a happy life,” said Dr. Hallowell, who himself suffers from ADHD.
“Our loving connections beget meaningful moments,” notes Dr. Hallowell, who explains that human moments happen when we feel most connected to the people and things we live for.
I wonder what would happen if more of us would turn off our electronic devices and hold someone’s hand. Would we experience more happiness? Could we help someone heal emotionally or physically? Would we bring about peace –maybe even change the world?