Remembering the human touch

In my last blog post I used the term ‘physical distancing’. Someone (well meaning, no doubt) suggested I was confused. Did I not mean social distancing? 

No, I replied. You see, I use this phrase in much the same way as I try avoiding the word ‘lockdown’. 

The first time I heard ‘social distancing’ as a term, I cringed. It seemed so… detached. 

And honestly? I don’t think it does what it says on the tin. It implies we should wall ourselves off from one another.

For many people who already feel vulnerable or isolated, it may only serve to make them feel worse.

I prefer ‘physical distancing’ because it is more accurate of what we are doing. We are creating space between each other to limit the spread of coronavirus.

It’s being used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments as a descriptive term. At a press conference Dr Marie Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said they were purposely saying ‘physical distance’ because it was important for people to remain connected. 

Dr Kerkhove urged us to find ways to do this through different platforms because, she said, ‘your mental health going through this is just as important as your physical health.’

Amen to that. 

According to 2016 research by the British Red Cross and Co-Op found more than nine million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely. 

Data also shows loneliness/social isolation is harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15-a-day.

A report in The Lancet provided further insight worth reflecting on. Evaluation of studies looking at the psychological outcomes of people quarantined during outbreaks of infectious diseases revealed many suffered short and long-term mental health problems including stress, emotional exhaustion and insomnia.  

In straitened times, we need social bonds. Humans are wired to interact and we are lucky enough to have the technology to be able to stay in touch, even while we are told to stay at home. 

Since government restrictions were implemented, my daily exercise has become an opportunity to foster small social links.

So this is me to every dog-walker, runner, stroller or cyclist: 




“Hi there!” 


No one is immune. I’m probably a bit annoying #SorryNotSorry. When people reciprocate I feel good. Uplifted. 

Just because we are staying two-metres from each other doesn’t mean we need to be any less friendly.

Cultivating social connections enable relationships to blossom even in the absence of the human touch. FaceTime get-togethers with family and friends, yaps with neighbours across the street, virtual team meetings – all help us feel part of a wider network and alleviate isolation. 

It is a very tough time for many but our ties to one another remain really important as coronavirus mitigation measures continue to keep us apart. 

And if our distant socialising manages to make one person smile, feel a little brighter or a little more loved, then we’re doing OK.

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I'm a writer, journalist and communications officer based in the South West of England. I write about wellbeing, the outdoors and life in a rural playground.

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