Are you aware of the healing power of touch? Whether it’s a few moments of hand holding, a welcome home hug, or cuddling on the couch watching TV after a long stressful day, simple touches from someone we care about can wash away our troubles and stresses.
Physical touch from someone we care about doesn’t just feel good. Studies show these simple touches are good for our physical and emotional health.
Touch Releases Hormones
When we share physical touch with others, it triggers our bodies to release several hormones that are related to stress relief, and feeling good.
The primary hormone released is oxytocin, often called the “cuddle chemical.” Oxytocin helps build trust and empathy. It also helps with stress management, anxiety and other factors that impede good health.
Physical contact stimulates pathways for serotonin – the body’s anti-pain and anti-depression hormone. This has shown to have benefits in health care, from holding premature babies, to holding the hands of hospice patients. Touch can ease pain and increase happiness.
Touch also increases the production and release of dopamine, which along with oxytocin and serotonin, helps regulate mood, anxiety, heart-rate, blood pressure and pain.
Health Benefits of Touch
Reduce cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone that that is brought on by stress. It is a key to our bodies “fight-or-flight” reflex. It elevates blood pressure and energy supplies through an increase in adrenaline. Touch has been shown to reduce cortisol levels.
Reduce blood pressure – Touch between people or even the cuddles of a beloved pet help to keep blood pressure in check.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety – Have you ever melted into a hug after being in a stressful situation? That hug made you feel safe, increased those “happy hormones” and melted away your stress and anxiety.
Induce calm – One study has shown that caregivers who calm crying children by embracing, stroking or patting were able to build more trust and sooth the children to stop crying.
Ways to Get a Boost from Touch
You don’t need to be in a relationship to benefit from the healing power of touch. Hugs from a close friend, or family member, or even cuddling with your pet can be very satisfying and produce a release of the hormones that promote better physical and emotional health.
If all else fails, getting a professional massage has also shown to induce these health benefits. There is also a relatively new trend of cuddle therapy. These G-rated professional cuddle sessions that help provide all the benefits of touch.
The next time you reach out to hold someone’s hand, or offer an embrace, or cuddle up during a movie, you are not just showing you care, you are both getting a boost to your health.
The bottom line is, the healing power of touch may be worth cuddling up to.
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