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Thursday / June 20.
HomemicontactGood Vibrations

Good Vibrations

After almost three years of living with COVID disruptions, Alan Saks is (literally) embracing a return to live events.

Many of us got back to attending conferences, events, and socialising in the latter part of 2022. And what a difference it made!

After a rather rocky three years, with significant impacts of the pandemic on people’s wellbeing and mental health, it was great to see smiles on faces and people interacting in such positive ways.

It seems there is hope for humanity.

After attending three major conferences – covering ophthalmology, optometry, dispensing, industry, cornea, and contact lenses – with almost 1,000 delegates, I noted a few significant observations and outcomes.

The first event I attended in August last year had around 500 people in attendance, with few masks and much hugging. The rest of the events up to the end of October were similarly upbeat, with only a handful of resultant cases of COVID and flu, and no super spreader events.

People were unanimous in stating how pleased they were to have human contact again; how important it is in their lives and how they had missed it.

Giving someone a good hug and the resultant positive benefits is not just new age nonsense. It’s been shown the hormone oxytocin is released by proximity, touch and hugs and has been labelled the ‘cuddle hormone’. It is associated with happiness and reduced stress/ anxiety and can reduce blood pressure. Check out the facts if you’re in doubt about the positive benefits of human contact. As with many things in scientific research there is still some debate but, overall, we can literally embrace hugging as a positive activity.

KEEP SMILING

I dare say that having now come out of this lockdown state of mind, we might actually be better people for it. We might appreciate our fellow humans more, have greater respect for others, and empathy with their feelings and circumstance.

Another observation from lockdown was that different personalities coped with it quite differently.

I observed that introverts loved lockdown. For them, working from home was paradise. Of course, most were not locked into a highrise tower; they were free to roam the beaches and walking trails in their area. On the other hand, some gregarious, extrovert social butterflies really struggled.

It was also heart-warming to see people reaching out to friends and colleagues, asking how they were, and sending a present or a care package to cheer them up.

There are other factors and chemicals at play in positivity, with dopamine and serotonin important for mental health and wellbeing. These are stimulated by, and achieved through, things like good sleep, diet, exercise, massage, sunlight, and music, while stress chemicals may be reduced by hugging and deep contact, so a reduction of fight and flight, stress, and inflammation are also possible.

As eye care practitioners we are skilled in the functions of the autonomic nervous system, science, physiology, perception, and psychology. We should take on board some of this deeper understanding of positivity and goodwill, that can be influenced by such simple acts as getting out and about, enjoying company, a good walk, sharing a meal, and a good hug.

I had noted that of the many people I dealt with over the past years, those that regularly had smiles on their faces – despite massive pressures – coped best. The mere act of smiling causes your brain to release neuropeptides. Dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, the neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness, also come into play.

Here’s wishing you a great year ahead. No doubt there will be obstacles but remember to keep smiling, stay positive, rise to the challenges, and enjoy some hugs!

… overall, we can literally embrace hugging as a positive activity