To touch or not to touch, that is the question these days. Touch is powerful. Touch can be good or bad, healthy or inappropriate. The focus here is on the many wonderful benefits that accrue from appropriate touch.
Touch is vitally important right from the git go. Touch is the first of the five senses to develop. Babies need it to thrive. It is essential for a baby’s physical, emotional, and eventual social development.
Karen Young has written an excellent article about the power of touch. I am sharing her salient points, while adding my own. Her words, “The power of touch is profound – whether it is an accidental glazing from a stranger, the strong kneading of a professional masseur, a gentle hold from someone close, a reassuring squeeze of the hand, an ‘I see you’ caress, an encouraging touch on the back, a quick kiss on the forehead or one that is slower, more tender and more anticipated. It can strengthen connections, heal, communicate, influence, and soothe.”
Benefits of appropriate touch include:
- MORE NURTURING TOUCH, LESS VIOLENCE: Research shows that when there is greater physical affection during childhood, the rates of adult physical violence are lower. On the other hand when touch is limited, physical and verbal aggression is higher.
- COMMUNICATION WITHOUT WORDS: Oftentimes touch can convey a caring message better than words.
- REDUCES STRESS: Touch has a calming effect as it reduces cortisol.
- BRINGS PEOPLE CLOSER TOGETHER: Oxytocin is affectionately called the “cuddle chemical”. Affection that is wanted causes the release of oxytocin. It helps to nurture feelings of trust and connectedness.
- COMMUNICATES COMPASSION: Touch activates the body’s vagus nerve which in intimately connected with our compassionate response.
- IT MAKES PEOPLE NICER: Those who are touched in ways that feel appropriate and safe are more likely to cooperate and share resources.
- NURTURES GROWTH: Babies that are consistently touched have more advanced visual motor skills and more advanced gross motor development.
- NOT JUST FOR BABIES: Touch can suppress pain, ease the symptoms of depression, and improves couple relationships.
- HELPS PEOPLE WITH ALZHEIMER’S: Such touch reduces stress and depressive symptoms and helps them make emotional connection with others.
It is unfortunate that because of all the inappropriate touching that exists in our current culture, many people have backed off of healthy touching because they do not want to be cited for crossing an individual’s boundary. When not sure a person should ask permission so as to not offend.
Respected Reader, I hope that you have been the recipient of very little, or no, inappropriate touch. May your life, past and present, be one where you are in your comfort zone for both giving and receiving a touch that is additive, meaningful, and healing. May you give and receive touch that feels good, appropriate, and maybe even loving!