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Health and Fitness News

Hug More, Live Better

Huggling, cuddling, and holding hands are good for you. Here’s why.

Physical touch. Without it babies fail to thrive, kids feel unloved, and adults feel alone in the world. You were created to need physical touch, but with the increase of cell phones, computers, and no-touch policies, physical touch is becoming less common (and more needed).

Why is physical touch so important, what are the signs you’re touch deprived, and how can you get more physical touch in your life? Keep reading to find out.

Benefits of Physical Touch

Physical touch plays an important role in communication, early development, relationships, and even a healthy immune system.

It starts at birth, with physical touch being essential for healthy mental and physical development in infants and children. When babies aren’t held or cuddled, they fail to thrive, are stunted in growth, and have developmental delays. Additionally, they may grow up with attachment issues that may affect their ability to connect meaningfully with others.

How does this happen? When you’re touched, cortisol levels decrease and serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine levels increase. These hormones act as natural antidepressants and painkillers.

Touch has other powers as well. It can slow a fast heart rate and reduce high blood pressure by stimulating the nerve receptors that connect to your vagus nerve. Impressive, isn’t it?

It also combats a condition that is becoming more common every day: loneliness. Even in small doses, loneliness takes a toll on your physical and mental well-being, putting you at risk for depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, heart disease, and stroke. Receiving physical touch, even if just a pat on the back from a stranger, can reduce feelings of loneliness.

Your immune system also gets a boost in the war against viruses and bacteria. Studies show that touch such as a massage increases production of natural killer cells so your body is better able to fight off illness. This may be because touch reduces stress. Whatever the reason, get a hug and you’ll be doing your immune system a favor.

Symptoms of Touch Deprivation

Adults who are starved of physical contact may be especially lonely and crave affection. They may be at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep problems. Touch starvation may even lead to aggressive behavior and body image issues. Without touch, someone may feel dissatisfied with all their relationships. When lacking physical touch from other people, an individual may seek to touch other things. They may cuddle with a pet, take a hot bath, or snuggle in a blanket.

What Counts as Touch?

Any positive physical contact counts as touch. This includes hugs, cuddles, holding hands, back scratches, massages, pats on the back, handshakes, and sensual touch. Moderate-pressure touch provides more benefits than light touches.

How to Get More Touch

Maybe you’re not a touchy-feely person. Maybe you prefer to keep your distance. But it’s time to tear down those walls. Because despite what you think, you probably crave physical touch whether you realize it or not.

But don’t worry. You don’t have to go hugging every person you see. Cuddle with a pet, get a professional massage, take dance lessons, or get a haircut. These are all safe ways to get in a little touch without overdoing it.

Families should seek out ways to appropriately touch each other. Snuggle on the couch while you watch a movie. Let your child sit on your lap, rock your baby to sleep, or rub your child’s back when they’re upset. Hold hands and cuddle with your spouse. Teenagers may act like they don’t want to be near you, but hug them or rub their backs anyway. If a family member’s love language is physical touch, then you’ll need to make extra efforts to be physically affectionate toward them.

Those small touches may seem minor, but they have big benefits!