Touch is one of the body’s five major senses and is perhaps the most important. Studies show that touch is essential when it comes to health, bonding, and communication. We can see this in action when we get a hug from a family member or a touch on the small of your back from a lover.
Scientists discovered that in many Western cultures, including the United States, people are deprived of touch and the associated benefits. In many countries, people spend more time in physical contact with each other; tapping each other on the arm as they talk or grabbing hands as they say hello. These gestures can make strangers immediately feel like family. But in many instances, people are afraid to invade personal space, meaning less physical contact with others, even close friends.
From birth, the power of touch is evident. Experts say that premature infants who received three touch therapy sessions for 15 minutes each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who did not receive these touch sessions. In addition, young students who receive friendly pats from a teacher are more likely to be communicative in class because they feel safe and comfortable. Contrarily, children who do not receive loving caresses from their mothers may become violent when they grow up. The orbitofrontal cortex in your brain controls feelings of compassion, and is immediately stimulated when you receive a loving touch. Thus, touch is soothing and calms us down, meaning a decrease in cardiovascular stress. Another study showed that women who received more hugs from their partners had lower blood pressure and heart rates.
In particular, touch can be therapeutic to children with autism as well as women with prenatal depression and people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The more pats on the back and eye contact that a patient receives from their doctor may have a positive effect. They’re not the only ones who benefit, however. The more we learn about the positive effects of touch, the more we should try to incorporate it into our daily lives.
– Barbara Bent