I did some reading and was amazed at how powerful and healing human touch is. I learned that touch is not only a potent emotional connector, but it also lowers blood pressure & heart rate, decreases anxiety and pain, and increases happiness and even immune function. Wow! The more I read, the more I realized that touch is a necessary element to our mental and physical health, as well as keeping our most important relationships strong.
How to include more touch in your life:
1. Hug more: Hugs and cuddles release oxytocin into your bloodstream which reduces cortisol. This not only feels good, but keeps you healthy. Isn't it instinctual to hug a baby or loved one when they are in distress? We know it is comforting, but it can be life-saving, as well. Dr. Ruth Feldman, a Professor at Bar-Ilan University, and her colleagues studied the impact of different levels of physical contact on prematurely born infants.
To summarize her results, "The benefit that premature infants gain from skin-to-skin contact with their mothers is measurable even 10 years after birth. Physical contact with babies is essential for their physical and psychological development."
I hug my husband & kids a lot, and my 16 year old daughter still sits in my lap for her hugs!
2. Give & receive massage: A pleasant rubdown will increase your white blood cell count to fight infection/boost immunity, ease pain & inflammation, improve sleep, encourage lymphatic drainage for effective detox, & decrease anxiety and depression. When couples use massage to connect, powerful feel-good and bonding hormones are released, including oxytocin, serotonin, & dopamine. These chemicals cascade through your brain and body, encouraging feelings of relaxation, safety, trust, deeper intimacy, and happiness.
3. Hold hands: Yep, and not just to help a child cross the street safely. Research shows that holding hands with a loved one actually reduces activity in the part of the brain that registers pain and stress. My husband and I hold hands when we walk together, when we sit together at church, or when he's driving (I need both hands on the wheel when I drive). It keeps us connected in a simple way throughout the week.
4. Sexual intimacy: It's truly good for you. Yes, it relieves stress and helps you sleep well, but there's so much more! Studies show couples that have more sex have higher levels of infection-fighting antibodies. And all that skin-on-skin contact just floods your body and brain with those wonderful hormones I told you about in #2. Plus, having sex actually boosts your libido, to help your body and your relationship stay healthy. It also keeps your hormones in balance, to help prevent osteoporosis and heart disease, and even decreases the chances of getting certain types of cancer. As a bonus, an hour of sex burns 170 calories (I don't even want to know how they figured that one out). Oxytocin, the human bonding hormone, is the glue of your marriage, and it deluges your body during sex ...giving feelings of trust, generosity, comfort, and security. This bonding is very powerful and cannot be controlled...read what Dr. Daniel Amen writes in his book, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life", page 41:
“Whenever a person is sexually involved with another person, neurochemical changes occur in both their brains that encourage limbic, emotional bonding. Yet limbic bonding is the reason casual sex doesn’t really work for most people on a whole mind and body level. Two people may decide to have sex ‘just for the fun of it,’ yet something is occurring on another level they might not have decided on at all: sex is enhancing an emotional bond between them whether they want it or not. One person, often the woman, is bound to form an attachment and will be hurt when a casual affair ends. One reason it is usually the women who is hurt most is that the female limbic system is larger than the male’s.”
As you can see, touch is a powerful and wonderful way to maintain a healthy body, positive outlook, and loving relationships! I hope this will encourage you to make touch a more pleasurable and relaxing, as well as consistent, part of your life.