The human touch is one that has literally been a subconscious part of us since we have been in existence. As a matter of fact, it is practically impossible to not come in physical contact with people, especially if you are in close proximity to them.
The sensation of human touch is used for various purposes including attracting attention or just for the very reason that touching is ingrained into our subconscious.
There are various angles or aspects to touch but one that stands out is its effect on physical relationships and emotions.
To get a clear understanding of this, exploring the importance and benefits of touch is essential.
Why Is Touch so Important?
The need for physical contact is one of the most essential parts of humanity. The importance of this easily comes out as early as when babies are born.
In order to nurse, babies have to make physical contact with their caregivers and this is essential for survival as well as bonding. This establishes a deep understanding that humans begin to experience with touch right from the very moment that they are born.
Research has shown that as kids grow older, touch is vital for learning engagement. A study showed that students, when pet by their teacher in a caring, friendly way, are three times more likely to contribute in class.
Apart from humans, touch is also important in the animal kingdom, especially between a mother and her newborns. A dog maintains constant touch with puppies and you will find horses constantly grooming their foals.
This implies that even for animals, touch is simply natural.
Showing intimacy as well as love or care all requires a measure of touch to be involved. Physical touch or cuddling releases a hormone known as oxytocin, which assists humans in bonding or connecting with other humans.
This hormone is the very reason that we feel the way that we feel when we’re touched by people we love. In addition, the benefit of this hormone release is not felt in that moment alone.
Is There Any Proof That Touch is Important?
Studies have shown that children as well as the offspring of non-human primates who go through their growth process without affective touch end up having serious developmental issues and are disadvantaged or awkward when it comes to relating socially.
Another study reports that brain scans reveal that touches of affection activate the orbitofrontal cortex, which is a region in the brain that is linked with decision-making and learning alongside social and emotional behavior.
Experiments have also determined that romantic kissing is a very important tool when choosing a partner, especially for women.
The reason attributed to this is that the personalized chemical cocktail present in human saliva conveys essential information to the brain that helps to decipher whether there is any physiological compatibility. Touch is, therefore, an essential social cue that signals an offer of empathy or comfort.
Touching and being touched goes a long way in affecting our reactions, physiological responses, and even our thought process. Touch can be a source of reassurance or have a calming effect on someone in distress and signifies an atmosphere of support and empathy.
A study in Sweden whose findings were recently published in the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction showed that patting and embracing children who are troubled or distressed helps them calm down and generally provides a soothing effect.
According to the study authors, the process of the interaction involves the adult showing signs that they are present to offer comfort through soothing contact, the child then acknowledges this invitation and responds positively to it.
This interaction and the coordination related to this occurrence basically allows the troubled or distressed child to experience a feeling of reassurance and security.
Touch also has valuable therapeutic effects. Actions as simple as a hug or pat on the back or shoulder, an arm around the shoulder, or holding hands may be of immense benefit especially if one is feeling down.
Physical Benefits of Human Touch
The physical benefits of human touch are usually pretty evident and can be easily identified. It is also evident in physical health and general wellness of the body. Here are some of the physical benefits that you would detect almost immediately:
Helps You Sleep
Oxytocin is the hormone that is released when you are affectionately touched and it has a very calming effect. You would notice that you sleep better when you are cuddling with someone you care about as opposed to when you are sleeping alone.
This doesn’t happen in all cases as certain people have no issues sleeping alone, however, it has been proven that you would enjoy your sleep even more when you are in physical contact with someone you care about.
The sense of security and love that you get out of that contact translates to leaving you in a very calm state.
Even for babies, a mother’s hand on their body while they sleep helps them feel secure and loved. This is a lot easier to do if you are co-sleeping with your baby. Co-sleeping is a great way to bond with your baby very fast.
Studies have shown that human contact, especially with someone that you care about such as your lover or partner, can be a very effective pain reliever.
This is once again partly linked to the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin, when released can help to block out pain signals. Touch has also been shown to activate reward circuits in the brain.
As a matter of fact, skin-to-skin touch activates the reward system that leads to a drastic reduction in pain in both humans and animals. Doctors have found out that it is very effective and have begun to figure out a way to make a lab form of it to treat people.
Boost the immune system and lower blood pressure
Touch from a partner or loved one has been shown to be a very effective source of stress relief.
When you are under a lot of stress, cortisol is released and this causes your immune system to weaken, thereby causing you to fall sick or sicker as the case may be.
Touch has been discovered to help boost your immune function as well as reduce the risk of occurrence of diseases that are related to the blood or heart.
A study found that when women were hugged by their partners, it resulted in a drop in their blood pressure as well as their heart rate. So maybe the term ‘healing touch’ isn’t far-fetched after all.
Emotional Benefits of Touch
There are many proven emotional benefits of touch. However, here are some of the most relatable ones:
Positive Thinking and Trust
Oxytocin is otherwise known as the “feel-good” hormone and it plays a major role here. It is known to help in inspiring positive thinking and maintaining a positive outlook of the world in general.
It is also a very essential ingredient for bonding with other people especially when you are meeting for the first time. Apart from bonding, it helps to generate feelings of compassion when interacting with people too.
This easily gives you an air of openness and sincerity and helps you to foster friendships and trust among various individuals while in social situations.
Reduction of Social Anxiety and Stress
Serotonin and dopamine levels have been shown to be greatly increased by physical touch. These two neurotransmitters help in the regulation of your mood in addition to helping your body to relieve anxiety and stress.
Dopamine is also known to actively regulate the pleasure center in your brain which also serves as a good counter to feelings of anxiety.
A study carried out on some breast cancer patients showed that massage therapy that involved stretching, stroking, and squeezing was very effective in helping them relax. They also detected an increase in their serotonin and dopamine levels.
This clearly points out that touch or physical contact does work wonders.
The importance of touch cannot be overstated and is essential for any loving relationship to thrive. Constant touching has been shown to be very effective in building up intimacy especially between lovers or partners. In general, touch is a vital part of human existence and is completely irreplaceable.