By: Steve Gainey, MA, LLP, ADS, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist – Affection is important; it makes us feel connected to others. The more affection we receive and give to others, the less lonely we feel.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We can be with others (family, friends, partners, etc.) in the same room, but not feel connected.
In a 2014 study by Kory Floyd, PhD, it was found that a lack of affection is positively related to depression, stress, loneliness, and to a number of diagnosed mood or anxiety disorders. Moreover, lack of affection can have a negative impact on general health and life happiness.
Much of what we learn about affection is from our childhood. In my experience, the clients I have seen who were raised with a good amount of affection, tend to have, need, and want it in their adult lives. Those who did not tend to get much affection, feel that they don’t need it that much because “it’s just not their makeup.”
Children who do not get enough affection, tend to talk themselves out of needing it (especially as they age). As adults, they continue to discount the need and often feel uncomfortable with giving or receiving affection.
Try an experiment.
When giving or receiving a hug, pay attention to a few things. Are your hands on the back of the other person or are you putting your hand over your other hand so you’re holding on to yourself? There is also a tendency to go into a hug, taking a breath in and then holding it until after the hug is done before breathing out. So, experiment to see how you hug. Perhaps, try it first with a close friend or family member. Then give another hug with both hands on the persons back and breath in and out a few times to fully take in the hug. Reflect on the difference between the two hugs.
Affection can be many things – physical touch, words of affirmation, receiving a personal gift that has meaning, quality time of feeling togetherness and belongingness, and more. Some people even feel affection more with their dog, cat and other pets than they do with other adults.
As Kory Floyd says, “When our needs for affection are met, we thrive physically, mentally, and socially, but when our needs are thwarted, our wellness can suffer.”
Not everyone needs the same level of affection. If you are struggling with this topic or would like help on other life issues, contact EAC. We’re here to help!