Some families are naturally touchy-feely and don8217;t mind sharing hugs and physical touch while others prefer to show their love in more non-physical ways, like spending time together or verbal affirmations. But there is a huge body of research that says physical touch is more important than we think.
It8217;s not surprising that infants thrive on sensory experiences, the main one being touch. If you8217;ve seen a cat with a new litter of kittens or baby birds nestled up next to their mama, you8217;ll observe how intrinsic it is for creatures just entering life to get close to one another.
According to the NCBI US National Library of Medicine, developmental delay is often seen in children who do not receive adequate or appropriate sensory stimulation, specifically touch. This study states that orphaned infants in the bleakest of conditions in Eastern Europe8211;babies who aren8217;t held and loved8211;exhibited impaired growth and cognitive development, as well as susceptibility to infection.
A fascinating study reported by The New York Times says that our brains actually release certain chemicals when triggered by physical touch, and others are released in the absence of touch. The study was conducted on premature infants; a group of whom were left alone in their incubators and a group of whom were massaged for 15 minutes, three times a day.
The babies who were massaged gained weight 47% faster than the ones who were left alone. They became more active and more responsive, even getting discharged from the hospital an average of six days earlier.
And it8217;s not just babies who8217;s brains respond to skin-to-skin contact. Psychology Today shares a 2013 study on the importance of human touch. Researchers in the UK found that 8220;loving touch, characterized by a slow caress or gentle stroking plays a big part in sustaining a healthy sense of self.8221;
3. Touch is how we share compassion.
Have you ever experienced a bad day that was completely transformed by a hug? Or have you had a sick child who only wants to be held? It8217;s because even the smallest gesture of physical touch can make us feel better.
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has found, after years of examining the science of touch, that physical connections are farm more important than we realize. It is a powerful language of compassion.
Interestingly enough, we don8217;t touch nearly as much in the United States as in other parts of the world. In a 1960s study done by notable psychologist Sidney Jourard, he visited various parts of the world and studied conversations that two friends had over lunch. What he found was fascinating:
- In England, the two friends touched zero times.
- In the United States, the average was twice.
- But in France, it was common for two friends to touch up to 110 times per hour.
- In Puerto Rico, friends touched 180 times just during lunch together!
Bottom, bottom line: Don8217;t be afraid to get more touchy-feely. Physical touch is more important than you know. Touching your kids can boost their development. Hugging a friend can show compassion. And snuggling up to someone you love doesn8217;t just feel good, it8217;s good for you too.
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