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Touch is Essential for Human Thriving. Even at the Y

Touch is a basic human need. More than that, it is essential for human thriving. It’s been proven that when babies and children are deprived of touch, their brain development is permanently impaired, which can destroy the growth of social abilities and result in lower intelligence.

I think a lot of you know and appreciate the YMCA as a place of connection and relationship. I do not disagree with this, however, my view of the Y as it pertains to human connection is so much more than this. There is so much biofeedback here that instantly sends a neurological signal to the brain, creating lasting pathways for habits, or an opening for conversation, or mood lifting chemical releases. One small example is the little ‘beep’ sound the check-in scanner makes when you scan your key tag. Your brain has associated that sound with work, or progress, or your workout, your favorite game, or your meet-up time with friends. Whatever your specific reason for being here is. Another small example of biofeedback would be the smell of the pool as you enter the locker room, if you are a swimmer or a regular user of the pool. This sends signals to the brain, alerting it of what is to come. If you generally have a positive experience in the pool, your brain will release serotonin and other feel good chemicals.

Another method of biofeedback for me is physical touch. Albeit, appropriate physical touch. Remember, touch is an essential human need. Last week Wednesday, as an example, in the span of a no more than an hour I hugged three members.

  1. Stacey remembered my mom, even though we haven’t talked in a while, and the last time she and I talked about my mom was last year. She asked me how she was doing. We talked and then concluded our conversation with a hug.
  2. Jesiane has been out for a few months because she recently had a baby. She was so happy to be here again, being active and moving. I helped her get connected to a small group training she loves, and because of that she hugged me.
  3. And Greg. I haven’t seen Greg in a couple months due to some medical procedures he’s had to go through, disallowing him to come to the Y. He knocked on my door to say hello and I couldn’t help but give him a hug. It was so nice to see him again.

I’m sure you have stories similar to this about your relationships and connections at the Y, making your Y experience richer. My charge to you is to reach out and touch those connections. Verbal communications is vital to a relationship, but positive and receptive physical touch is vital to humanity, and a way in which we can deepen relationships and make lasting neurological impact.    


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