The Healing Power Of A Simple Hug!

How touch can help to improve your wellbeing

April 09, 2016 | By Georgia Bellas

Today we live in a world where communication is at the heart of almost everything we do, and the ways in which we can communicate only continue to grow. We talk on the phone, we correspond via email, and more commonly, we communicate through the plethora of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.

While technology has allowed us to verbally communicate quite easily, it has also made us less present and less conditioned to physical contact. 

The sense of touch is the first to develop in a fetus. Nowadays, we are informed of the many benefits and the importance of contact parenting and how skin on skin bonding aids in the development of growth physically, mentally and emotionally.

However, it is a skill we take for granted as adults. Physical human contact and touch influences who we love, how we interpret and convey emotional content and even the way in which we heal. There is much to be gained by utilizing our tactile language, including more positive interactions, a greater sense of connection with others and even improved health.

Still confused? Here's what the science says about how touch and physical contact can improve your wellbeing:

Brain Gain

Researchers at the Miami School of Medicine discovered that being touched actually gives your brain a workout. The study revealed that adults given a chair massage displayed increased alertness and higher scores in mathematics quizzes as opposed to subjects who simply sat in a chair.

Improved Sports Performance

Researchers at the University of Illinois tracked physical contact between teammates during NBA games. The study found that the more on-court touching that occurred early on in the season, the more successful teams were by the end of the season. This is backed up by a study conducted by the University of California on NBL basketball players back in 2009, which found that those belonging to teams who high-fived and bumped fists won more games. A post-rebound slap for the win it seems!

Lowers Blood Pressure

A little bit of TLC goes a long way! According to researchers at the University of North Carolina, women who reported frequent hugs by their other halves had lower blood pressure and increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that induces relaxation.

Caress & Destress

The Touch Research Institute’s Dr. Tiffany Field in Miami explains that when you stimulate the pressure receptors in the skin eg. through touch, there is a decrease in the release of certain stress hormones. This is true also in the case of self-caressing. Think about it – when we are stressed we tend to massage our foreheads, rub our necks or even self-hug. And the mounting research supports these techniques, showing that self-massage can slow heart rate and lower levels or cortisol, the stress hormone.

Cheap Therapy

Dr. Field has once again proven that a little touch or physical contact can certainly improve your wellbeing greatly. Her research has shown that therapeutic massage can aid in pain relief, addiction recovery, cognitive function, anxiety, insomnia and headaches. And the bonus – it's not just a one way street!

Field’s research also showed that the massage giver also experiences a significant reduction in stress hormones, even as much as the massage recipient. So if you’re looking for a way to coax your other half in to giving you a back rub, make sure they know what’s in it for them!

Spread The Love

According to studies published in Psychology Today in 2013, seemingly insignificant touches yield bigger tips for waitresses and people tend to shop and spend more if they are touched by a store assistant. Talk about Customer Care!

The benefits of touch at the appropriate time, in the right setting and in the appropriate way can have positive effects on many aspects of our personal wellbeing. While it is important to communicate verbally, it is equally as crucial to remember the effectiveness of non-verbal communication and the healing power behind something as simple as a hug.

Have a stressful health concern? Read more articles on how to improve your wellbeing here.