Do you want to feel happier? Be more successful? Get healthier? Of course you do! Who doesn’t? So what if I told you that there’s just one thing you need that will improve your quality of life overall? That one thing, proven time and time again to improve our lives across so many realms, is physical touch.
Our bodies as well as our souls crave touch. It’s why I became a massage therapist in the first place—I truly believe in the transformative, healing power of human touch. Ironically, we live in a technologically connected world where physical touch is sorely lacking. This absence of human-to-human contact might be the cause of so many issues that we experience, both physically and emotionally.
So why is touch so necessary for our health and well-being? And how can it make you happier, healthier and more successful? Let’s explore.
The Science of Touch
Think of the last good hug you experienced. And not just a “Hey you! How’re you doing?” kind of hug. I’m talking a deep, lasting embrace from someone you care about. How did it make you feel? Relaxed? Comforted? Loved? All of the above? There’s a reason for that.
According to research done by Dr. Alex Korb in his book The Upward Spiral, physical touch of almost any kind floods your body with various hormones and chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These all work together to tell your amygdala (the place in your brain where fear, anxiety and aggression reside) to quiet down and relax.
But why is this so important to our well-being?
Why We Need Touch
Touch is essential to human development. As David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University, put it: “Touch is not optional for human development.”
Denying basic touch to babies can stunt their growth in many detrimental ways—physically, cognitively and emotionally. When babies are not held and played with the way they should be, they’ll resort to self-soothing behaviors which will manifest as mental and emotional disorders later on in life…to tragic effect. Simply put, babies need—and crave— touch because it is necessary for their development. But that need for physical touch is something that we carry with us into adulthood.
What Touch Can Do for Us
Even the simplest touch—a pat on the back, a friendly handshake or a gentle grazing of the arm—will activate those happy hormones (oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, respectively) and transform your life by:
- reducing pain and fatigue
- improving sleep
- strengthening immunity (and keeping disease at bay!)
- lowering stress
- improving cooperation and teamwork
- helping you develop healthy habits
- helping you feel good about life in general!
Perhaps more importantly, touch bonds people together. It strengthens relationships, whether it’s between a mother and child, best friends, co-workers, employees, or partners. It makes you happier, makes you appear genuine and trusting to others, and can even make you more successful.
How to Add More Touch Into Your Life
Challenge yourself to incorporate more touch into your daily life. It’s much simpler than you realize!
Hug and/or kiss a loved one before you leave for work. Studies show that people who kiss their partners before leaving for work live on average five years longer than those who don’t.
Hug someone who needs it. Whether it’s just to say hello or to comfort someone who’s having a rough day, a good hug can go a long way.
Get a massage. Ask someone to rub your shoulders or schedule a massage therapy session; watch your happiness levels skyrocket and your stress levels plummet. Even better? Offer to give a massage to a loved one. You’ll cherish the look of gratitude on their faces!
High-five a co-worker. Obviously hugs and kisses aren’t appropriate in the workplace. But a congratulatory high-five to a co-worker is a great, non-threatening way to build trust and a platonic relationship.
What are ways you incorporate more physical touch into your life? Let me know in the comments below!