The 3 Biggest Advantages of Human Touch May Surprise You

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The 3 Biggest Advantages of Human Touch May Surprise You

Sara Menges

Written by Sara Menges

Sara Menges

Sara Menges

Sara enjoys research, art, and seeking a sustainably fun life, balancing physical and mental health.

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Reviewed by Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

January 24, 2021 / Read Time 3 minutes

These 3 Advantages of Hugs, Pats, or Intimacy May Surprise You

Have you ever wondered why holding hands, a hug, or cuddles can feel so good? There are a variety of benefits to human touch, from social bonding to boosting the immune system. Below, we’ll be taking a look at why we enjoy human contact and how it is part of a healthy life.

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Why Is Touch Important?

Physical contact is a basic human need with emotional, mental, and physical benefits. From the moment of birth, babies need to cling, suckle, and rest on caregivers. This practice forms the bonds at the heart of our familial social structure and is a key tool of survival.

Even as we age, touch remains a critical component of our social and emotional growth. One study found that students are three times as likely to speak up in class after their teacher pats them in a friendly manner.

It's not only humans that need touch. Primates often pick at each other's fur throughout the day. It has been observed that the gelada baboon grooms for about 17 percent of its waking hours. Among the various reasons why primates touch each other is the need to ease tensions in social settings.

The release of the hormone oxytocin is another benefit of physical touch. oxytocin helps humans form emotional connection to one another and creates sensations that foster a sense of well-being and happiness. Even if we aren't bonding with babies, adults can still benefit from the various rewards of an oxytocin release with friends, partners, or even animals.

Read: How to Deal With Anxiety

3 Positive Health Manifestations from Touch

Why is human touch so powerful? The benefits of physical touch, and the biological stimulation that comes with it, go beyond social bonding and can manifest positively in your mental and physical health.

Here are some major ways hugs and hand holding can increase your happiness and longevity.

Inspire positive thinking and expand trust

Known as the "feel good" hormone, oxytocin helps inspire positive thinking and an optimistic outlook on the world. Oxytocin also  generates feelings of compassion during interactions. This can contribute to an expansion of trust among individuals during social situations.

Reduce social anxiety and stress

Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure center in your brain that can offset feelings of anxiety.

One study on breast cancer patients found that massage therapy in the form of stroking, stretching, and squeezing relaxed participants and increased dopamine and serotonin levels.

From the study, “The immediate massage therapy effects included reduced anxiety, depressed mood, and anger. The longer term massage effects included reduced depression and hostility and increased urinary dopamine, serotonin values, NK cell number, and lymphocytes.”

Boost immune system and lower blood pressure

Physical touch is known to improve the function of your immune system as well as reduce diseases such as those associated with the heart and blood. One study on women found that receiving more hugs from their partners led to lower heart rates and blood pressure.

Read: Signs of Depression

Ways to Get Your Physical Touch Boost

You don't have to get hugs and cuddles exclusively from a significant other. Hugs from your family, friends, or pets can feel satisfying and invoke the release of oxytocin. It also important to be aware of how much physical contact another person is comfortable with.

Physical contact is a key component to emotional, mental, and physical well-being. However, sometimes we need more than a hug. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, you may benefit from online therapy.

PlushCare is proud to offer online therapy services. Our platform makes it easy for you to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our licensed therapists that you can attend from the comfort of your own home.

Taking the first step is always the hardest. Just click here to set up your first session and receive half off your first month of therapy.

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Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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