The power of touch improves relationships and health

November 28, 2015

Regular, healthy touch does wonders for us. We all like a pat on the back, a hug, a handshake, a touch on the hand, to receive acknowledgement for what is happening with us in that moment, or simply the connection we have with another person.


Touch has been proven to be therapeutic, critical to the development of newborns and young kids; important to true intimacy in relationships; for reducing symptoms of depression, fatigue and irritability; for reducing stress in crisis situations; an important part of the work with the elderly; and, much more.


Humans are wired for touch as a form of communication and health. It can be an effective nonverbal communication tool, and very healing as evidenced by professional massage therapy, reflexology, physical therapy, or a basic neck rub by a friend or family member. It connects us in ways that words can't. We fail to thrive without touch, and ache for it when we don't have it.


It's important to understand what our friends and family like and don't like as far as touch goes. Respecting that someone doesn't like foot rubs, or remembering that someone else loves to walk arm in arm linked at the elbow, all those sorts of preferences matter to relationships and help strengthen our connections.


Some couples can barely keep their hands off each other, and other couples can go periods of time without displays of affection, but most healthy relationships (not just couples) find their right amount of touch and then do that with remarkable regularity for the simple reason that it makes us feel good. When we feel good, our stress levels go down, our outlook tends to be happier and more optimistic, we have improved energy, and treat ourselves - and others - better. Positive, healthy touch helps us to thrive and has a place in every relationship and community.


Hold someone's hand

Holding hands is a very common form of affection between many types of people. It can bring reassurance or a feeling of safety, it can be affectionate or affirming, it can be sensual or therapeutic, mostly it's an easy form of acknowledgement of the connection between people.


Hugs and congratulations

Hugging between people is a ubiquitous form of affection, congratulations, solace, acknowledgment, support, love and much more. Hugging hello and goodbye among friends and family members is a common practice in all cultures, demonstrating connection and acknowledged continuance of the relationship.


Comfort in grief

Comforting others in their grief is often difficult for many people.  We're uncertain of what to say and don't want to say the wrong thing.  Hugs, putting a hand on a shoulder, holding hands, rubbing the neck or back, or just sitting with a hand on a forearm are common displays of touch that are meaningful and show you are present for them (if the person welcomes it; ask first if you're not sure).


Get close to those you love

Every part of our skin is receptive to touch, so whether it's our foreheads touching, our shoulders, a full hug, a couple fingers on a forearm or ankle, any type of connection by touch relaxes us, reassures us, excites us, calms us and many more depending on the relationship and the type of touch. The more healthy touch in relationships, the better, in general. There are some people who don't respond to it as much as others, though, so always be respectful and accept boundaries that are given.


A loving kiss

An affectionate kiss makes babies smile and grandmothers blush. Kisses are well known to be very clear signs of love and connection, celebration and joy, assurance and support, gentleness and love, as well as trust and passion, too.


Kind touch for ourselves, too

It's important not to overlook gentle touch with ourselves.  Applying hand lotion, rubbing our own necks and feet, hands clasped in prayer or meditation, our folded arms around us are all ways to comfort ourselves whenever it is needed.  


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