Often, it is the little things we do that lets loved ones know we care about them. A note. A voicemail. A smile. A gift. Yet, the most effective way to share how you feel is through a loving caress.
Touch is fundamentally vital to our wellbeing and happiness. Initially, we explore the world through touch. Eventually, we learn to maintain our mental and physical health, balance stress levels and build relationships via different types of touch. It is our first and primary language of communication.
In fact, it is crucial. Studies proved that babies develop faster, stronger, and healthier with loving touch. Deprived children suffer psychologically and physically. Fortunately, a little bit of loving touch goes a long way.
“Even short bursts of touch—as little as fifteen minutes in the evening, in one of her studies—not only enhance growth and weight gain in children but also lead to emotional, physical, and cognitive improvements in adults. Touch itself appears to stimulate our bodies to react in very specific ways. The right kind can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels, stimulate the hippocampus (an area of the brain that is central to memory), and drive the release of a host of hormones and neuropeptides that have been linked to positive and uplifting emotions. The physical effects of touch are far-reaching.”
Being such kinesthetic creatures, it makes sense that the elderly and disabled populations stand to benefit as much as children. These groups stay more active and happy with regular healing touch.  These “untouchables” need more touch, not less.
So much can be communicated by the touch of a hand. Researchers even tested how well various emotions can be detected from a simple hand on the arm. Surprisingly, or not, compassion was the most detectable emotion . The odds of correctly detecting the emotion were low but generally, the detection rate was high.
Within the Shen Life Pack, we learned that the pups first respond and learn through touch; so much so that training with visual or auditory cues happens far after the physical input is understood. Touch has become a cornerstone of our daily ritual. We wrestle, lay and chew on each other. Everyone loves it. And afterward, all of the pack feels more connected, harmonious, and satisfied with the day.
Assuming you are in a consensual, situation, here are some simple, respectful ways to help relieve stress and boost your well being:
- Get a massage—massage therapy has tons of research to validate its effectiveness in alleviating not just physical issues, but mental strife too
- Hold hands or link arms—assuming you are on good terms with the other person, this is an easy way to connect
- Give (and receive) a hug—all funny business aside, a simple hug can quickly improve each person’s mood and health
- Pet a dog—jokingly referred to as vitamin P, stroking pets can nourish you on a fundamental level
Even a simple high five, fist bump, or handshake can improve the connection and trust within a relationship. It seems overly simple, but its been shown students do better in school after a teacher gives a friendly tap. Patients are more likely to recover when a doctor gives an affirming pat on the back. [4, 5]
Give yourself a boost. Give someone a hug. Like Atlas here, you’ll feel better!
- Touch effects on children, https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/power-touch
- Touch impact on elderly https://www.agingcare.com/articles/the-power-of-human-touch-187302.htm
- Emotions in touch: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16938094
- Therapeutic touch, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research AND https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/23mind.html
- Power of touch, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch