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The power of touch: five reasons to reach out

Post by Sophie Watson,  12 February 2015 ,  Articles

Love can exist in countless different forms. Yet, despite its diversity, there is one way to express love that is nearly universal: touch. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you love – nearly every culture in the world correlates touching with affection. But why would one form of expression be so universally embraced?


Many experts believe that the answer is quite simple: we like touching because it feels good and because it is good for us. Really good for us, as it happens – in fact, several studies have associated increased touching with better health, greater happiness and a bigger bond with those we hold dear. In this guest post from EliteSingles dating site online magazine, Sophie Watson discusses the power of touch and reveals five of the ways in which hugging and healing go hand-in-hand. Same goes for Acro Yoga btw ;)

The Power of touch - Acro Yoga

1. Touching provides the big O


Oxytocin that is! Known as the ‘trust hormone’ or the ‘love molecule,’ oxytocin is a brain chemical that comes with incredible benefits. It can help us bond with partners (both sexually and emotionally), relieve some of the symptoms of depression, reduce social anxiety, increase self-esteem and optimism and even help us to heal physically! And the best bit? It’s a molecule that costs nothing to top up: our brains release surges of oxytocin when we make physical contact with someone. All it takes is a hug – or even just a handshake! (1)
     

2. Holding hands calms our brains


A study into pain relief looked at the brain activity of married women. Researchers found that, when these women experienced pain, it was lessened when they held their husbands’ hands. Indeed, as soon as they touched, brain scans revealed an activity drop in the parts of the brain that are responsible for danger, fear and stress.(2) One suggestion for this is that touching someone close to us can send out signals that lower our levels of cortisol (a hormone that makes us feel on alert) while also raising our levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that can help us feel more capable). The result? Touching someone floods us with a sense of calm that can have a great, pain-relieving effect on our health.(3)

3. Soothing touch summons sleep


As your cortisol levels lower, your blood pressure does too – which only serves to amplify the calm feelings. As a result, another benefit of touching is that it can help us sleep better (in itself vital for good health, both emotionally and physically). As well as improving mental acuity, extra sleep is great for those who lead an active lifestyle: a Stanford University study showed that extra sleep can improve sports stamina.(4) Great news for those who do yoga!

4. Touch, communication and compassion go hand in hand


We might say I love you to those we hold dear, but we also communicate the idea non-verbally. From hugging to kissing and more, we touch because we love. But it’s not just limited to our nearest and dearest – the power of touch can also help us connect with strangers. In a social experiment, writer Diana Spechler looked at the ways touch can shape our lives and came to the conclusion that it is vital for bonding. The oxytocin helps us bond with partners while chaste,  gentle arm touching can help emphasise a  friendly statement by positively stimulating the insula; a brain section thought to be responsible for our attitude and reactions.(5) 

5.  Embracing the power of touch


So, the power of touch is fantastic. It can draw us close to people, lower our blood-pressure, raise serotonin and increase stamina. It can make us happy. But what’s the best way to harness it? If you are part of a couple, the answer is easy: take the time to consciously, actively touch each other and to luxuriate in the experience. Single? You may not have a partner readily on hand, but you can still have touch in your life – hug platonic friends, embrace your sensual side with daily tactile indulgence, or even spend time with a pet! After all, studies have shown that cuddling up with an animal gives similar health benefits to cuddling up with a person. (6)   
 
Touching is an essential part of a happy life and, due to its health-boosting benefits, it is something we could all probably do with a little more of in our lives. So, this Valentine’s Day, why not tap into the loving mood and find someone to hug? Your body will thank you!

Want to read more articles by Sophie?
Sophie Watson - author of EliteSingles magazine.
Check out her author page on EliteSingles magazine: http://www.elitesingles.ie/author/sophiewatson .
And follow her on G+.



Sources:
(1) George Dvorsky, writing for io9, 2012. 10 Reasons Why Oxytocin Is The Most Amazing Molecule In The World. http://io9.com/5925206/10-reasons-why-oxytocin-is-the-most-amazing-molecule-in-the-world
(2) Roger Dobson, writing for The Independent, 2006. How the power of touch reduces pain and even fights disease. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/how-the-power-of-touch-reduces-pain-and-even-fights-disease-419462.html
(3)Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. First published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, Oct 2005: 115(10):1397-413.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447
(4) Alyssa Sparacino, writing for Health, 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20459221_6,00.html
(5) Diane Spechler, writing for Oprah Magazine, 2013. The Power Of Touch: How Physical Contact Can Improve Your Health http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/the-power-of-touch-physical-contact-health_n_3253987.html
(6) Norine Dworkin-McDaniel, writing for Health.com on CNN, 2011. Touching makes you healthier. http://edition.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/touching.makes.you.healthier.health/



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