A pair of lovers hold hands, a mother cradles her baby, two friends greet with a hug, these are everyday gestures that we usually take for granted. We touch those we care for, more or less depending on our culture, but touch is fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health. It is our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion.
We are born with the need to touch and be touched. If we are not cuddled as babies or children, we do not develop as well. Touch is the first sense we acquire and the last to go. It is the only one of our five senses which doesn't diminish with age. And in the absence of touching and being touched, we grow touch starved and sicken.
Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language, and the last, and it always tells the truth.
~ Margaret Atwood
Touch signals safety and trust, it soothes and comforts. Touch stimulates the release of endorphins (the body's natural pain killers). It feels good to touch and be touched. It is our primary language for communication. And we're wired for it: There are approximately 5 million touch receptors in our skin, 3,000 in each fingertip.
In exploring the power of touch I discovered SO many studies, here are some of the wondrous findings:
- Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress.
- A simple touch triggers release of oxytocin, the love hormone.
- We have an innate ability to decode emotions through touch alone.
- Touch can communicate multiple positive emotions: joy, love, gratitude, and sympathy.
- Touch increases the speed of communication.
- When teachers pat students in a friendly way, those students are three times as likely to speak up in class.
- Eye contact and a pat on the back from a doctor may boost survival rates of patients with complex diseases.
- Sitting in close contact with a partner for 10 minutes lowered blood pressure in women. Physical contact can trigger a boost in serotonin, a natural antidepressant.
- 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.
No other form of communication is as universally understood as touch. The compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug can take away our fears, soothe our anxieties, and fill the emptiness of loneliness. You cannot touch without being touched.
6 Ways to Add More Touch
Research indicates that a regular dose of some type of touch lasting at least a few minutes each day is essential for your well being; 10 to 15 minutes is optimal. Here's how to regain fluency in your first language:
1. Hold Hands. In your relationship you probably did this a lot in the beginning. Spark it up again! Hold hands with your friends, children and grandchildren.
2. Get or Give a Massage. If you can't schedule a weekly message you can certainly partner up with a loved one or friend and gift this to one another. Massage the areas that carry tension, such as the neck, shoulders, and lower back. You can also do self message, but partner massage is yummier.
3. Engage in Hands On Movement.Whether it's ballroom dance, pilates or yoga, engage in a workout that involves human touch. There's plenty of touch in available in these three, as your instructor adjusts your posture and form. It also helps you ‘get it' more quickly than just verbal tips.
5. Hug Someone. Yes, this is the easiest. Whether it's part of your culture or not this is a delightful acquired habit. It's the quickest way to share your love, affection and joy.
6. Visit a Salon. Get your hair washed and blow dryed. Throw in a manicure and pedicure.
We’re wired, and we need, to connect with other people physically. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts. Don't hold out now. Join the party!
PS Ready to dive into the deliciousness of self care?