Are you getting your daily touch needs?
Paul Zak, aka Dr. Love, recommends at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoy better relationships.
I know from first-hand experience how powerful touch can be. I grew up in a family that didn’t touch much or demonstrate love physically. Thankfully, in my 30’s I discovered the joy of hugging and realized how powerful and healing healthy touch can be. I also realized how starved for touch I was, so I relate to the idea of touch as nutrition. The author, John Huite, talks about all the ways we mute and deny our need for touch. We substitute eating, avoid physical contact and try to pretend touch isn’t important. Or as I explored last week, lack of social connection can even lead to drug addiction. One of the most painful aspects of isolation and loneliness is the lack of touch. This is especially true for the elderly.
Studies show how babies and children who don’t get enough touch can suffer great consequences, suffering delayed learning, stunted growth or emotional responses. We are literally wired to need and receive touch. This article in the NY Times explores the many benefits in receiving touch. One practical benefit for couples found that pairs who touch more tend to be more satisfied in their relationship.
It appears that touch is our first and primary language. Children naturally include all kinds of touch into their daily lives with bumping, cuddling, wrestling and more. Touch (whether a high five, hug or a casual pat) can communicate a wide range of emotion, and often do so more quickly and accurately than words.
Touch is also being used to help children with autism and other learning and social challenges. Evidence shows touch releases oxytocin in the brain which helps us to feel connected, while also lowering stress. Researchers have found that as these areas of the brain relax, other areas can help with problem-solving. So literally, touch soothes our brain and emotions, allowing better mental function.
Here’s a related article exploring 7 health benefits from hugging, including lowering stress and blood pressure, feeling good and improving heart health. PS, hugs need to last at least 20″ for biochemical and physiological reactions to take place, so relax and settle in!
It’s nice to have science confirm my experience and feelings! In a previous post, I explored the power of social connections to prevent addiction and rehabilitate people who have committed crimes. I believe touch is a very important aspect of social connection in helping us move from surviving to thriving.
Touch is good for our physical, mental and emotional health. We need to find more ways to bring healthy touch into our lives at work and home. Please give and receive lots of hugs, handshakes, pats and other appropriate touches into your life.
Now, give three long hugs and call me in the morning! 🙂