Why touch is so important and so powerful

“To touch can be to give life,”

said Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Many studies have documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch.

Studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.”

Proper uses of touch truly have the potential to transform the practice of medicine—and they’re cost effective to boot. For example, studies show that touching patients with Alzheimer’s disease can have huge effects on getting them to relax, make emotional connections with others, and reduce their symptoms of depression.

Now scientific research correlates physical touch with the following important areas:

1. Decreased violence. A person who experience less touch in his/her life tends to have a greater violence. James W. Prescott, an American developmental psychologist suggested that the origins of violence in society were likely due to the lack of mother-child bonding. Lifelong emotional disturbances may result by the absence of physical bonding and healthy attachment between an adult and child.

2. Greater trust between individuals. Touch helps to bond people together. A neuroscientist Edmund Ross, found that physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, linked to feelings of reward and compassion. Studies also show that a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone.'” According to researchers Auvray, Myin, and Spence The receptors on our skins directly elicit emotional responses, through stimulation of erogenous zones or nerve endings that respond to pain.

3. Decreased disease and stronger immune system. Physical touch may also decrease disease. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. A study conducted at the University of North Carolina, females who receive more hugs from their partners have decreased heart rates and blood pressure: “Hugs strengthen the immune system…The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy and disease free.”

4. Overall wellbeing. Studies have documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. Studies also suggested that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.” “Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction, and increasingly, many people are seeking out their own professional touchers and body arts teachers—chiropractors, physical therapists, Gestalt therapists, Rolfers, the Alexander-technique and Feldenkrais people, massage therapists, martial arts and T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructors. And some even wait in physicians’ offices for a physical examination for ailments with no organic cause—they wait to be touched.”

Physical touch is the foundational element of human development and culture. The growing preoccupation with digital media versus personal physical contact, combined with the social and legal restrictions over physical contact in our schools and workplaces, may unintentionally affect these factors negatively. To foster a safe social environment in a climate of mediated communication, we should intentionally hold on to physical touch.

References

  • Auvray, M., Myin, E., & Spence, C. (2010). The sensory-discriminative and affective-motivational aspects of pain. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34, 214-223.
  • Paladino, M.P., Mazzurega, M., Pavani, F., & Schubert, T. (2010). Synchronous multisensory stimulation blurs self-other boundaries. Psychological Science, 21, 1202-1207
  • Wilhelm, F. H., Kochar, A. S., Roth, W. T., & Gross, J. J. (2001). Social anxiety and response to touch: Incongruence between self-evaluative and physiological reactions. Biological Psychology, 58, 181-202

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