The Health Benefits of Physical Touch

Dr. Angela Seabright
Maiya Hayes

| 3 min read

Two young people embracing.
To improve your mind and body in 2019, you don’t have to tackle grandiose health goals. Instead, just try these simple activities with your loved ones:
  • Hold their hand
  • Hug them
  • Pet your cat or dog
Although we often take it for granted, the act of physical touch can have a profound effect on our health. For starters, it can increase the levels of oxytocin in our brain and therefore increase our feelings of trust, generosity and compassion.
In addition, studies have shown that:
  • Hugging or holding hands with another person can improve your heart health
  • Petting a dog or cat can reduce your blood pressure and stress levels
So even if you’re not a touchy-feely person, we strongly encourage you to be more affectionate.
The golden touch
As human beings, we’re naturally inclined to connect with other people through physical touch. But lately we’ve become so obsessed with using our cell phones, tablets and computers to connect with other human beings that many of us neglect to make physical touch a priority.
It’s important to be mindful of how important hugging and holding hands can be for a person’s well-being. After all, people who are deprived of physical touch are reportedly more likely to experience depression and anxiety disorders.
So for the sake of your overall well-being, you should strive to reap the benefits of physical touch. To inspire you, we’ve compiled a list of songs relevant to this topic that you should check out, maybe while reading the rest of this post:
• “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” — Diana Ross
• “I Want To Hold Your Hand” — The Beatles
• “Hold My Hand” — Hootie & The Blowfish
• “Hug Me” — Trey Parker and Pharrell Williams (from the “Despicable Me 3” soundtrack)
Let’s hug it out
Scientific studies have shown that people improve the health of their brain and body when they regularly receive hugs from their loved ones. That’s because a good hug can:
  • Reduce the stress of the person being comforted and reduce the stress of the person doing the comforting.
  • Lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Protect you from getting sick.
In addition, here are alternatives that offer the same benefits as a good, old-fashioned hug:
  • Get a massage: A good massage can do more than relieve muscle tension and help heal injuries. It can also reduce stress, anxiety and insomnia.
  • Sleep with a weighted blanket: Weighted blankets offer deep pressure stimulation that feels like a firm hug, massage or swaddling. According to researchers, deep pressure stimulation can calm adults and children with anxiety, autism and attention difficulties.
Take my hand
Holding hands with another person is considered to be one of the most powerful forms of touch because it can have profound health benefits. The act of holding hands:
  • Can lower levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in a person’s body.
Pets are doggone important
Animal-assisted therapy is used in many medical settings to help people recover from or better cope with health problems. It’s also used in universities and community programs to help people deal with anxiety and stress.
So it’s no surprise that your furry friends can help you, too. Petting a dog or cat can lower your blood pressure, help you relax and reduce your stress.
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Photo credit: PeopleImages

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