The Power of Touch

Published On: Mar 28 2014 01:26:58 PM CDT

Are you a touchy-feely person?  If you're anything like me and you answered "yes," touch is extremely beneficial and necessary in everyday life.  Women's Health cites research that says touch can be beneficial to A LOT of people.  But here in the United States, many people have limited daily touch; this, in turn, can lead to something called touch deprivation.

Now we're not talking intimate touch, although for many people that can be important.  We're talking platonic touch, like a pat on the back, a hug, or holding hands.  I spoke with Dr. Molly Allen about the phenomenon of "touch deprivation" and she agrees it's certainly possible, but it's important to note that not EVERYONE needs the same amount of daily touch.  Personal and cultural differences can lead to some needing or wanting more or less touch.

For those who DO appreciate touch, though, there are plenty of benefits to daily physical touch.  Touch leads to upticks in:

  • Serotonin,
  • Dopamine,
  • Oxytocin.

All of those hormones are linked to a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Dr. Allen also cites research that touch leads to a reduction in stress hormones.  Studies in nursing homes even show that "get[ting] a touch on the arm or a hand on the knee...does help reduce blood pressure and does help [patients] to feel...better, like they've been noticed."  Dr. Allen says for those people who severely lack human touch do become socially and emotionally impaired.  She does emphasize, though, that those people are in the minority.

If YOU are feeling low on touch, though, there are things you can do to increase those feel-good symptoms.

  • Get or give yourself a massage;
  • Get or give yourself a manicure or pedicure;
  • Massage your scalp;
  • Push a tennis ball under your feet.

Own a pet?  Cuddling with or petting your pet can help increase those feel-good hormones!  Dr. Allen reminds us, though, that getting a pet isn't the solution to getting more touch.  Pet ownership has it's own stressors and obligations.  So don't own a pet?  Try the above ideas!

Now I'm gonna call my masseuse... :)