Health & Wellness Articles

The Healing Power of Touch

How Physical Contact Improves Your Health

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Looking for your daily oxytocin boost?  Try the tips below:

  • Cuddle. You don't have to talk or gaze deeply into someone's eyes, but you can cuddle with your partner, child or pet.
  • Hug hello (and goodbye for that matter). Greet friends and family with a quick embrace to maximize touch in your day.
  • Find Fido. Touch doesn't have to be person to person. Use your down time to groom or pet your dog or let your cat nap in your lap as you make phone calls.
  • Jump in bed. Having more sex will increase your touch time, and time spent between the sheets can positively impact your relationship, too.  
  • Schedule a massage. Penciling in a session with a trusted therapist will leave you relaxed and refreshed.
  • Try a solo massage. Using lotion or massage oil, relieve neck, arm, leg and scalp tension using the tips of your fingers to massage in a circular motion. Self-massage tools, such as canes (to massage your back) or kneading tools can help with hard-to-reach spots or tough knots.
  • Get classy. Yoga and Pilates classes offer hands-on adjustments from qualified instructors that can help strengthen your core and provide a dose of touch.
  • Hold hands. Don't wait for someone to initiate it—go for it yourself! This simple gesture can bring the spark back to a long-time relationship, add some sizzle to a new one, and even show someone special (your child, parent, grandparent, sibling or best friend) that you care.
  • Get a pedicure. Snag a snazzy new nail color and a serving of healthy touch.
  • Pat someone on the back. Congratulate friends and co-workers on their accomplishments with a celebratory pat on the back.

From reducing blood pressure to flooding us with positive emotions, touch is an easy add-in to your day that can have powerful health benefits. With a little thought, you'll find countless ways to touch the lives of others through this meaningful form of connection.
 
Sources
National Institutes of Health. "The Power of Love," accessed April 4, 2013. newsinhealth.nih.gov

National Institutes of Health. "Massage Therapy," accessed on April 4, 2013. newsinhealth.nih.gov

University of Virginia. "High-quality marriages help to calm nerves," accessed on April 4, 2013. www.eurekalert.org

Baker, Kathy. "Study shows frequent massage sessions boost biological benefits," accessed on April 4, 2013. news.emory.edu

Keltner, Dacher. "Hands on Research: The Science of Touch," accessed on April 4, 2013. greatergood.berkeley.edu

National Institutes of Health. "Massage Therapy," accessed on April 4, 2013. nccam.nih.gov
 
Weerapong P, Hume PA, Kolt GS. "The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention," accessed on April 4, 2013. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Uvnas-Moberg K, Petersson M. "Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing ," accessed on April 4, 2013. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Field, Tiffany. "Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: A review," accessed on April 4, 2013. www.sciencedirect.com

 

 
 

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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • If you are not related to me, an attempted hug might leave you with a black eye. Seriously; it may be healthy for you, but it's ire-raising for me.

    All you huggers need to please keep this in mind. - 6/19/2014 9:06:17 AM
  • I believe vitamin H (hugs) can heal a lot of things. One thing I've found they don't heal is smiling, it justs make smiling worse (for most people). My husband's company is small (eight employees) and if I go into the office with him you can see the smiles begin because most of the guys say "alright, we get our vitamin H today". The one's that don't feel comfortable (which are only two) just smile and say "good morning, hope you have a good day" and stand in the doorway instead of coming into the office I use. You have to take a que from other people as to how they feel about hugging, being alert to reactions from watching the others get a hug is a good indicator of how another person feels about hugs. I desensitize them with a pat on the shoulder, a hand on their arm for a moment, or some other small touch, it may be as small as a few extra words and soon they are inside the office and smiling even though they may not be huggable yet. - 12/13/2013 11:44:58 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 6/20/2013 6:36:09 AM
  • I think given someone a hug is great. You don't know what that person have been through for the day and a hug will do them good. And also telling a person you love them is great as well. - 6/18/2013 12:47:43 PM
  • Man, I must be healthy as can be! Every time I sit on the couch (daily), my son jumps on me & starts cuddling and all three of my dogs jump on my lap or snuggle next to me. I often love it, but it can get very confining. Sometimes I need to get up just to get a little break!

    It's also wise to make sure others are OK with touching if you don't know them well. Personal space should be respected. - 6/14/2013 11:25:56 AM
  • Man, I must be healthy as can be! Every time I sit on the couch (daily), my son jumps on me & starts cuddling and all three of my dogs jump on my lap or snuggle next to me. I often love it, but it can get very confining. Sometimes I need to get up just to get a little break!

    It's also wise to make sure others are OK with touching if you don't know them well. Personal space should be respected. - 6/14/2013 11:25:40 AM
  • I was raised in a family that did not hug or touch and that has stuck with me. But I sort of envy those who can hug comfortably. - 5/28/2013 7:28:50 AM
  • NSSREENIVASAN
    Yes. I fully agree. Once a while, I hug trees in my garden and I get a good relief and feel energetic. - 5/28/2013 5:05:27 AM
  • What a wonderful article/message.

    I recall reading an article in National Geographic some time ago about an African tribe. When the family is sitting together, every family member is touching other family members -- a leg, arm. There were a series of photos of the families in informal settings, and the family members always maintained physical contact with one another.

    What bonding!

    Would be a great remedy for the isolation that occurs in our society! - 5/27/2013 9:37:57 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    There are many people who are uncomfortable getting or giving hugs except with family or very close friends. Instead of making them feel better, hugging can make them feel stressful.

    Don't assume (if you're a hugger) that everyone else is.

    - 5/27/2013 5:25:48 PM
  • I agree! We live in a touch-deprived culture, so some turn to food, drugs, alcohol to try and lift the spirit. Exercise and touch are healthy ways to feel great. I do amateur massage and have taught groups how to work on their own neck (in the absence of someone else). It works wonders! Just purchase arnica oil and rub in circles on your neck (lying down in bed without pillow). You would be amazed how much this helps the circulation. - 5/27/2013 5:01:31 PM
  • I have given and gotten "HUGS" my entire life. I am glad that my parents taught me that. Being able to HUG is a very rewarding experience. I loved this article. - 5/27/2013 3:51:09 PM
  • hugs are very good for every one no matter what kind of day they are having - 5/27/2013 10:21:40 AM
  • Everyone needs six hugs a day. I make sure I give and get mine daily. It makes my world go round. - 5/27/2013 7:46:32 AM

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