We can all relate to the need for human touch. Whether you’re hugging your best friend, kissing your little one goodnight, or snuggling up with your partner, that loving physical connection is just so comforting. It might surprise you to learn that touch isn’t just good for your emotional state; it can actually improve your physical health too.
Our Need for Connection
Humans and other primates are born with the need for physical contact. Newborn babies cling to their caregivers in those critical first few weeks and months. This helps them to bond, and also provides them with sensory stimulation which promotes healthy development. Medical studies have shown how touch stimulates brain activity in newborns, and gentle physical contact from parents and caregivers can even give premature babies a better chance of survival.
This need for positive, loving human touch continues as children grow up, and stays with us into adulthood.
Did you know? Neurologists have found that physical touch is processed by the reward centre of the central nervous system, and this explains why we have such a strong emotional response to it.
Touch Releases “Happy Hormones”
When we hold or hug a loved one, our bodies release oxytocin, a “feel-good” hormone. Oxytocin is a powerful neurotransmitter that plays a big role in human bonding, between parents and babies, romantic partners, and friends. An oxytocin surge increases feelings of trust, love and positivity. It lifts the mood, and even has natural pain-relieving properties.
Physical touch also increases our levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These substances help to regulate the mood, and ease feelings of stress and anxiety.
Touch is Good for the Heart
Some studies have also linked human touch to health benefits like lower blood pressure, slower heart rate and better immune system function. Bonding regularly through touch can actually help us stay healthier and even live longer.
Many of us take it for granted that human touch is a part of our daily lives. Not everyone is so lucky, however. People who are isolated (such as the elderly and those with critical illness) can experience touch deprivation, which has a big negative impact on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
As medical and scientific research into the power of human touch continues, more and more people are learning to appreciate just how important and beneficial it can be.
Touch in Infancy is Important for Healthy Brain Development. Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/touch-in-infancy-is-important-for-healthy-brain-development-74864
The Loving Touch is Critical for Premature Infants. Retrieved from: https://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/the-loving-touch-is-critical-for-premature-infants
The 3 Biggest Advantages of Human Touch May Surprise You. Retrieved from: https://www.plushcare.com/blog/advantages-of-human-touch-hugs/