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I’m a sucker for cuddling. Holding hands. Giving long hugs. Sitting close on the couch. Kissing. Scientists figured out that human beings need at least five different touch interactions during the day and the lack of that comforting touch can lead to depression and anxiety. Touch gives us humans the sensory input that we crave.

The power of touch is pretty incredible. It’s our primary language of compassion and care. Even when it is non-sexual.Touch instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. It lifts serotonin levels, elevating your mood. Touch builds trust and a sense of safety. It’s one of the most simple of ways that we continually renew our bonds with those we love- holding our children, caressing our partners. It relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body.

It is possible to be touch deprived (something that I have been experiencing lately). “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting,” said psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University. “Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.”

In the 1960s, psychologist Sidney Jourard observed friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. Sometimes, they hugged. Sometimes, they gave each other a simple high five. Sometimes, something more. In England, Jourard noted that the two friends touched each other zero times within the hour. In the United States, we touched each other twice. In France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour- no wonder the French are considered so sensual, engaging in their sense of touch.

Why are Americans so afraid to touch one another?

We live in such a busy, crowded world. Yet, it’s so easy for many of us to go days, weeks, even months without touching and/or being touched by others. Ask yourself, dear reader, if you are deprived and why you are. I’m not saying to tackle the next random person you see on the street. But maybe the emerging cuddling businesses might be the way to go. Perhaps I should become a professional snuggler…


Touch Me (the Power of Contact and Connection)

Touch is powerful

One of the things I miss the most about being in a relationship is being touched. Sex aside, I miss holding hands and kisses on the forehead (among other things). Before my last boyfriend, I sneered at PDA but now as a single, I embrace it (pardon the pun). When me and my friends hug each other goodbye, I hold them for a few seconds longer. I no longer jump when someone accidentally bumps into me as they walk by. It’s kind of funny how the one thing you dreaded so much is now something you crave.

Touch is powerful. It’s the first language we learn, coming out of the womb to the gentle hands of a parent or a doctor. As toddlers, we put things up to our mouths, exploring textures with our lips. The symbolization of losing one’s virginity is simply being touched in a particular place for the first time. Our bodies are built for connection. It has been proven that touch like a massage can help relieve and ease stress, anxiety and pain. I’ve been researching different ways touch can help improve one’s life. Below is a blurb from an interesting article I read about touch, its influence on relationships with one self and other relationships and how touch keeps people physically and mentally healthy:

Emerging research suggests that touch therapy works: In one landmark study, 16 happily married women were subjected to the threat of a mild electric shock; touching their husbands’ hands brought immediate relief from the resulting anxiety. Even a stranger’s touch was somewhat calming. “We know that anxiety decreases immune function and makes you get sick more often,” says study author Jim Coan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. “If touch can help you be less anxious, you’re more likely to stay well.”

John Keats wrote that touch has memory, especially the good kind of touch. Do you remember have your back rubbed as a child? If you have your back touched now, the memory portion of your brain overflows with relief. Our skin is our bodies largest organ and is receptive to everything from a high-five to being physically intimate. Touch may make one more alert and lessen symptoms of depression such as fatigue and irritability. The Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that a massage from a loved one can not only ease pain but also soothe depression and strengthen a relationship. Touch can help lower blood pressure and still a racing heart. A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the hormone, cortisol (which is known as the “stress hormone”). Touch even helps with problem solving. Post-massage, subjects showed increased speed and accuracy in solving the problems. Even a slight touch from a stranger for a brief moment can be beneficial to someone who hasn’t been touched in a while. Sure, touching a stranger is consider taboo in our American culture but doing so can help.

Some people go hours, days, even weeks without any physical contact in their lives, unaware of touch’s benefits. As I sit here, writing this entry, I think about the next person I get to wrap my arms around. Okay, this person will probably be my cat but I can’t wait until the next time I’ll be able to hug an actual human being. I hope you, dear reader, receive plenty of physical contact in your life- and if you don’t, I hope you can feel the hug I’m giving you through the computer screen.