I treated myself to a massage today as an early Christmas gift.  As the holidays approach our teeth clench, our shoulders tighten, and our low backs throb, as we attack our endless to-do list of holiday preparations.

Across Europe people share good cheer; but whereas the French blow air kisses to the cheek and the British shake hands, Americans hug, especially in the Midwest, especially in my family. Maybe it goes back to my Viking ancestry when close body contact meant survival. At any rate the Olson -McKinzie clan I grew up in were huggers, whether it was a big bear hug from mom or a special squeeze from Papa Mac.hugging siblings

Ironically during the Internet age in our fast paced, high tech society, we can access people across the globe instantly electronically, yet we have become more physically disconnected to others than ever.

People in the helping professions, like my nurse friends, have long understood the healing power of touch. Medical studies prove that touch decreases anxiety, increases the number of white blood cells, lowers blood pressure, increases endorphins, and helps you sleep better. The ancient ritual of hands on healing has been part of religious practices for centuries.

I love words, but words fall short.  No written expression can heal the mind, body, and spirit as greatly as the power of touch.

Though we associate this time of year with razzle-dazzle holiday glitz euphoria, for many people it is also a time of sorrow as they remember lost loved ones. Days are short and dreary; nights are long and lonely.  Everybody needs the touch of other human beings especially now. Even though economic times are tough, and we can’t all buy extravagant Christmas presents or afford a massage, hugs are free.

The greatest gift we can give is this season is ourselves.

Who have you hugged today?