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  • Writer's pictureRebekka Mikkola

Benefits of Touch

The benefits of human touch have been confirmed by multiple scientific studies. Affectionate touch has been shown to have physiological and biochemical effects, which result in decreased blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels. This helps us stay disease free, reduces stress and strengthens our immune system.

Touch can provide a soothing and comforting effect for people suffering from life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease. It can also help mitigate against feelings of social isolation, thereby helping to reduce loneliness.

Touch elevates oxytocin levels, which makes us feel good. In addition, the release of oxytocin helps build trust and creates bonds on an emotional level.

Why is cuddling good for us?

  • Hugs can help reduce stress. Our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol when we’re stressed. However, when we receive a hug, oxytocin is released which helps us feel calmer and more relaxed, thereby reducing stress levels.

  • Hugging may help lower blood pressure. When we hug, pressure receptors are activated, which send a signal to the part of our brain that is responsible for lowering blood pressure.

  • Cuddles boost our immune system and lower the risk of infections. According to the founder of the Touch Research Institute, Dr. Tiffany Field, touch increases the number of natural killer cells in our body, which are “the frontline of the immune system.” Natural killer cells help reduce disease and illness by warding off viral and cancer cells.

  • Hugs protect against heart disease. It’s been suggested that hugs can help protect against heart disease as they lower the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for blood pressure and heart disease.

  • Cuddling increase levels of serotonin. Hugs release serotonin into the body, which can make us feel happier and more confident. Some health issues such as obesity and depression are linked to a serotonin imbalance in the body. Hugs may therefore be able to help some people suffering from these conditions.

  • Cuddles can help balance the nervous system. A network of small, egg-shaped pressure centres within our skin can sense touch and they connect to our brain via the nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is said to be more balanced as a result of the change in skin conductance of people giving and receiving hugs.

  • Hugs help people suffering from touch deprivation. Touch deprivation is a condition that affects people who lack skin contact and touch in their lives. Hugs are a great way of providing both the touch and social connection we need to thrive as individuals. You can find out more about the signs of touch deprivation here.

  • Hugging can help lower feelings of social isolation. Research from UCL has shown that affectionate touch can reduce feelings of social isolation, meaning that hugs can help reduce loneliness.

  • Cuddles can help people suffering from anxiety. Hugs release feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin, which help us feel more relaxed and happier. Tiffany Field describes serotonin as a ‘natural antidepressant’, which also helps fight depression.

  • Hugs can help improve self-esteem and happiness. Tactile sensations and self-worth from our early years remain embedded in our nervous system into adulthood. This means that affection from our parents and family remain with us on a cellular level, and hugs we receive throughout our lives remind us of this at a somatic level.

  • Hugging can help relieve pain. Tiffany Field notes that serotonin is “the body’s natural pain killer”. Serotonin is one of the chemicals released when we cuddle, which explains why hugs are seen to be a natural analgesic that people turn to when they’re emotionally or physically hurt.

  • Hugs can help fight fear. A study published by Psychological Science showed that touch can reduce fears about mortality, while also providing comfort and reassurance at the same time.

  • Cuddles are a form of caring communication. When we hug, oxytocin is released which is known as the bonding hormone and helps create trust between two individuals. Not only do hugs act as a form of support, but they also calm us down and help us feel emotionally and psychologically connected to one and other.

  • Hugs increase muscle relaxation. Hugging can release tension and relax muscles. They soothe aches and pains by increasing circulation into soft tissue.

  • Hugging can increase empathy. One of the many positive impacts of oxytocin release, is an increase in levels of empathy, even between people who are hugging one and other as strangers.

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