Touch is the first of all our senses to develop. In fact, humans begin using their sense of touch in the womb. It is essential for our ability to know the world we live in and to connect with others on both basic and deep levels. Touch is essential to our overall health.
From lowering blood pressure and heart rate to increasing immune function and relieving pain, getting touched makes you healthier — not to mention happier and less anxious. Since you can’t touch without being touched, the physiological benefits of touching occur for both the toucher and the touchee. Research has revealed that a person giving a massage experiences as great a reduction in stress hormones as the person on the receiving end. Likewise, studies have shown that a person giving a hug benefits just as much from the gesture as a person being hugged.
Whether it’s your significant other rubbing your shoulders, a quickie-back massage at the mall, or a foot-rub during a pedicure, even a short massage helps you to unwind. Your muscles relax, the heart rate slows, blood pressure falls and levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop. When cortisol drops, the immune system strengthens.
Hugging is not limited to your children or spouse. If you ask permission, just about everyone appreciates a hug. When hugging, both the hugger and hugee simultaneously experience a flood of the hormone oxytocin and a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. So, hugging can reduce stress and boost the immune system all at once. Now that’s a powerful embrace.
Holding hands can be enormously calming. In fact, research shows that holding hands with a special someone can reduce stress, lower cortisol and lower blood pressure, especially when done during a tense situation.