The Importance of Touch

What have you touched today? Your alarm clock, a toothbrush, a doorknob?

We touch countless objects everyday. Can you remember the last time you touched another person? Was it today? Last week?

Do you feel anxious even thinking about touching someone? We aren’t a high touch society.  We don’t touch strangers and we may even feel weird touching our friends and family. Touch is often associated with sexuality. Maybe you worry about sending the wrong message.

Are we missing out by shying away from touch?

Why touch?

Touch can speak volumes when words fail us. We humans can communicate surprisingly well through touch. In one study, participants were able to communicate anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness rather well.

Touch can help us feel more connected to others. It decreases stress, helps build trust, and improves our overall well being.

It is the best way to comfort someone.

Tips for touch

I’m not suggesting that you go out and hug a bunch of strangers. Context matters and some people don’t like to be touched. You may want to ask permission, but you know your relationships the best. Here are some ways you can reap the benefits of touch.

  • Hold hands with a loved one, give them a hug, or give them a hand massage. You can’t touch someone without being touched. Research suggests that the person giving a massage or a hug experiences the same reduction in stress as the person being touched.
  • Touch yourself.  You may be surprised how much you do this already. If you bang your knee, your first reaction is probably to rub it. If you have a headache, you probably massage your forehead. So go ahead, and give yourself a hug.
  • Cuddle up with your pet. Yep, petting your cat can decrease your stress.
  • Get a professional massage. We massage therapists are masters at communication through touch. Massage has a reputation for digging into to your muscles and “breaking up knots.” Sounds pretty aggressive, but massage is wonderful at comforting, soothing anxiety, and easing stress. Words fail to describe how great a professional massage is at telling your body it’s okay to relax and just be. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.

So don’t be afraid to reach out and touch someone!