The Power of Touch

Reviewed Aug 10, 2017

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Summary

Touch:

  • Basic requirement for optimum health
  • Validates us
  • Reduces stress

A friendly touch at the right moment can give tremendous comfort. It can also improve health and increase energy. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known authority on healthy living, says that “touch is a basic requirement for optimum health.”

Touch validates us. Touch lets us know we’re recognized, cared for, and appreciated. This powerful form of nonverbal communication is key to bonding in the human and animal worlds, communicating everything from “I love you” to “I’m sorry.”

Health benefits

Skin is our largest organ and our greatest sensory instrument. Scientists have demonstrated that nurturing touch releases endorphins and other brain messengers that can:

  • Reduce stress and fatigue
  • Boost the immune system
  • Ease pain
  • Lessen depression and anxiety
  • Slow the heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase circulation
  • Help premature infants gain weight

Touch is especially important to the healthy development and socialization of infants and children.

On the flip side, there is ample evidence that babies and animals that have been deprived of touch have developmental problems. Some experts have linked touch deprivation to compulsive behaviors, increased aggression, and higher death rates.

Appropriate touch

Touching should never make you or anyone you touch uncomfortable. Safe places to touch others are generally the shoulder, elbow, and upper arm. It’s best to use nurturing touch primarily with family and friends.

Be careful about touching co-workers or acquaintances. A high-five or a pat on the shoulder may be welcome. However, use common sense. It helps if you understand body language and personality types. If someone has a big force field around them screaming, “Don’t invade my personal space,” then he is probably not a good candidate for a friendly pat on the back.

With anyone except your intimate partner, stay away from the stomach, chest, and areas below the belt. Trust your instincts and respect others’ boundaries. If in doubt, don’t touch. If you don’t want to be touched, say so.

Sex is obviously a form of touch, and happy, consensual sex can be refreshing and validating on both physical and psychological levels. But if couples feel pressure to have every touching moment lead to sex, the healing benefits of touch may be lessened. Couples need to build nonsexual touching into their relationship. Take time for hand holding, hugs, cuddling, or simply lying next to one another absorbing the comfort of feeling skin against skin. Don’t view every touch experience as foreplay, but as the event in itself.

Massage: A healthy alternative

Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to touch. People who are not in a relationship or who have few close family members may be touch deprived. The elderly, in particular, can be very isolated from comforting touch.

For these folks and others, massage is a good alternative. This widely accepted health practice has a proven track record of reducing fatigue and stress and promoting relaxation for everyone from babies to the chronically ill. There are many types of massage available. Something as simple as a 20-minute shoulder or foot massage can give a great energy boost.

Increase positive touch

Follow these tips to increase positive touch in your life:

  • Become conscious of how much you touch or don’t touch others. Keep a written record for a day or two.
  • Try giving family members a hello or goodbye hug at least once a day. If you’re not touchy-feely, start by placing a hand occasionally on your loved one’s upper arm or knee when talking.
  • Discuss the topic. Ask friends and relatives if they’d like a hug or a back rub.
  • Brush a friend’s or loved one’s hair.
  • Hold hands with your children. Snuggle with them as you read or watch TV.
  • Put an arm around a friend or touch her arm during conversation.
  • Pet your dog or cat for several minutes every day.
  • Get a massage or a manicure or pedicure.
  • Massage your own scalp.
  • Place your hands gently on either side of your partner’s face. Try different types of hugs and extend the time of your usual hug.
  • Volunteer. Some medical facilities have programs for holding babies born with HIV or drug addictions. Volunteer at a nursing home where you can hold a sick or elderly person’s hand. It has the added benefit of helping you as well.

Resource

American Massage Therapy Association®
www.amtamassage.org

By Amy Fries
Source: The Power of Touch: The Basis for Survival, Health, Intimacy, and Emotional Well-Being by Phyllis David. Hay House, 1999; Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, third edition by Ashley Montagu. Harper & Row, 1986; Weil, Andrew. “Aging Naturally.” Time. Oct. 17, 2005.

Summary

Touch:

  • Basic requirement for optimum health
  • Validates us
  • Reduces stress

A friendly touch at the right moment can give tremendous comfort. It can also improve health and increase energy. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known authority on healthy living, says that “touch is a basic requirement for optimum health.”

Touch validates us. Touch lets us know we’re recognized, cared for, and appreciated. This powerful form of nonverbal communication is key to bonding in the human and animal worlds, communicating everything from “I love you” to “I’m sorry.”

Health benefits

Skin is our largest organ and our greatest sensory instrument. Scientists have demonstrated that nurturing touch releases endorphins and other brain messengers that can:

  • Reduce stress and fatigue
  • Boost the immune system
  • Ease pain
  • Lessen depression and anxiety
  • Slow the heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase circulation
  • Help premature infants gain weight

Touch is especially important to the healthy development and socialization of infants and children.

On the flip side, there is ample evidence that babies and animals that have been deprived of touch have developmental problems. Some experts have linked touch deprivation to compulsive behaviors, increased aggression, and higher death rates.

Appropriate touch

Touching should never make you or anyone you touch uncomfortable. Safe places to touch others are generally the shoulder, elbow, and upper arm. It’s best to use nurturing touch primarily with family and friends.

Be careful about touching co-workers or acquaintances. A high-five or a pat on the shoulder may be welcome. However, use common sense. It helps if you understand body language and personality types. If someone has a big force field around them screaming, “Don’t invade my personal space,” then he is probably not a good candidate for a friendly pat on the back.

With anyone except your intimate partner, stay away from the stomach, chest, and areas below the belt. Trust your instincts and respect others’ boundaries. If in doubt, don’t touch. If you don’t want to be touched, say so.

Sex is obviously a form of touch, and happy, consensual sex can be refreshing and validating on both physical and psychological levels. But if couples feel pressure to have every touching moment lead to sex, the healing benefits of touch may be lessened. Couples need to build nonsexual touching into their relationship. Take time for hand holding, hugs, cuddling, or simply lying next to one another absorbing the comfort of feeling skin against skin. Don’t view every touch experience as foreplay, but as the event in itself.

Massage: A healthy alternative

Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to touch. People who are not in a relationship or who have few close family members may be touch deprived. The elderly, in particular, can be very isolated from comforting touch.

For these folks and others, massage is a good alternative. This widely accepted health practice has a proven track record of reducing fatigue and stress and promoting relaxation for everyone from babies to the chronically ill. There are many types of massage available. Something as simple as a 20-minute shoulder or foot massage can give a great energy boost.

Increase positive touch

Follow these tips to increase positive touch in your life:

  • Become conscious of how much you touch or don’t touch others. Keep a written record for a day or two.
  • Try giving family members a hello or goodbye hug at least once a day. If you’re not touchy-feely, start by placing a hand occasionally on your loved one’s upper arm or knee when talking.
  • Discuss the topic. Ask friends and relatives if they’d like a hug or a back rub.
  • Brush a friend’s or loved one’s hair.
  • Hold hands with your children. Snuggle with them as you read or watch TV.
  • Put an arm around a friend or touch her arm during conversation.
  • Pet your dog or cat for several minutes every day.
  • Get a massage or a manicure or pedicure.
  • Massage your own scalp.
  • Place your hands gently on either side of your partner’s face. Try different types of hugs and extend the time of your usual hug.
  • Volunteer. Some medical facilities have programs for holding babies born with HIV or drug addictions. Volunteer at a nursing home where you can hold a sick or elderly person’s hand. It has the added benefit of helping you as well.

Resource

American Massage Therapy Association®
www.amtamassage.org

By Amy Fries
Source: The Power of Touch: The Basis for Survival, Health, Intimacy, and Emotional Well-Being by Phyllis David. Hay House, 1999; Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, third edition by Ashley Montagu. Harper & Row, 1986; Weil, Andrew. “Aging Naturally.” Time. Oct. 17, 2005.

Summary

Touch:

  • Basic requirement for optimum health
  • Validates us
  • Reduces stress

A friendly touch at the right moment can give tremendous comfort. It can also improve health and increase energy. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known authority on healthy living, says that “touch is a basic requirement for optimum health.”

Touch validates us. Touch lets us know we’re recognized, cared for, and appreciated. This powerful form of nonverbal communication is key to bonding in the human and animal worlds, communicating everything from “I love you” to “I’m sorry.”

Health benefits

Skin is our largest organ and our greatest sensory instrument. Scientists have demonstrated that nurturing touch releases endorphins and other brain messengers that can:

  • Reduce stress and fatigue
  • Boost the immune system
  • Ease pain
  • Lessen depression and anxiety
  • Slow the heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase circulation
  • Help premature infants gain weight

Touch is especially important to the healthy development and socialization of infants and children.

On the flip side, there is ample evidence that babies and animals that have been deprived of touch have developmental problems. Some experts have linked touch deprivation to compulsive behaviors, increased aggression, and higher death rates.

Appropriate touch

Touching should never make you or anyone you touch uncomfortable. Safe places to touch others are generally the shoulder, elbow, and upper arm. It’s best to use nurturing touch primarily with family and friends.

Be careful about touching co-workers or acquaintances. A high-five or a pat on the shoulder may be welcome. However, use common sense. It helps if you understand body language and personality types. If someone has a big force field around them screaming, “Don’t invade my personal space,” then he is probably not a good candidate for a friendly pat on the back.

With anyone except your intimate partner, stay away from the stomach, chest, and areas below the belt. Trust your instincts and respect others’ boundaries. If in doubt, don’t touch. If you don’t want to be touched, say so.

Sex is obviously a form of touch, and happy, consensual sex can be refreshing and validating on both physical and psychological levels. But if couples feel pressure to have every touching moment lead to sex, the healing benefits of touch may be lessened. Couples need to build nonsexual touching into their relationship. Take time for hand holding, hugs, cuddling, or simply lying next to one another absorbing the comfort of feeling skin against skin. Don’t view every touch experience as foreplay, but as the event in itself.

Massage: A healthy alternative

Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to touch. People who are not in a relationship or who have few close family members may be touch deprived. The elderly, in particular, can be very isolated from comforting touch.

For these folks and others, massage is a good alternative. This widely accepted health practice has a proven track record of reducing fatigue and stress and promoting relaxation for everyone from babies to the chronically ill. There are many types of massage available. Something as simple as a 20-minute shoulder or foot massage can give a great energy boost.

Increase positive touch

Follow these tips to increase positive touch in your life:

  • Become conscious of how much you touch or don’t touch others. Keep a written record for a day or two.
  • Try giving family members a hello or goodbye hug at least once a day. If you’re not touchy-feely, start by placing a hand occasionally on your loved one’s upper arm or knee when talking.
  • Discuss the topic. Ask friends and relatives if they’d like a hug or a back rub.
  • Brush a friend’s or loved one’s hair.
  • Hold hands with your children. Snuggle with them as you read or watch TV.
  • Put an arm around a friend or touch her arm during conversation.
  • Pet your dog or cat for several minutes every day.
  • Get a massage or a manicure or pedicure.
  • Massage your own scalp.
  • Place your hands gently on either side of your partner’s face. Try different types of hugs and extend the time of your usual hug.
  • Volunteer. Some medical facilities have programs for holding babies born with HIV or drug addictions. Volunteer at a nursing home where you can hold a sick or elderly person’s hand. It has the added benefit of helping you as well.

Resource

American Massage Therapy Association®
www.amtamassage.org

By Amy Fries
Source: The Power of Touch: The Basis for Survival, Health, Intimacy, and Emotional Well-Being by Phyllis David. Hay House, 1999; Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, third edition by Ashley Montagu. Harper & Row, 1986; Weil, Andrew. “Aging Naturally.” Time. Oct. 17, 2005.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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