This is one of the most researched topics in all of psychology – the need for humans to be touched.
Harry Harlow (1958) and James Prescott (1975) kicked off the research with studies of rhesus monkeys.
What did they find?
That babies had a stronger drive for physical comfort than food.
Other researchers (John Bowlby in 1969 and Margaret Mahler in 2000) came to the same conclusion about human infants but their work went even further.
They discovered that this need continues into adulthood.
Touch activates the orbitofrontal cortex in our brains. This is the region responsible for reward and compassion.
When it’s not activated, when we’re deprived of touch, we are more vulnerable to stress.
There’s even research that showed subject’s hippocampus (part of the brain that controls the stress response) actually shrinks when exposed to consistent, chronic stress without any type of relief.
Study after study has shown touch to be the antidote for stress.
And not surprisingly, couples who do not touch one another, show higher rates of depression, more significant behavioral problems and major challenges in the relationship itself.
Touch makes us calmer, more resilient and strengthens our immune system.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is one of the least “touchy” cultures in the world but that shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of this free medicine.
If you’re in a relationship and not touching your partner, it’s time to start.
It can be as simple as just holding hands or giving her a hug when you leave in the morning.
But why not do more?
Kiss her more. Cuddle with her in bed in the morning and before going to sleep.
Give her a massage.
The more you touch her, the more she’ll touch you back.
Are you touch averse?
If you are, there’s a good chance you weren’t touched enough as a child.
But you can learn how to do this!
Designate 10 minutes each day to be alone with your partner. Use the time for close physical contact – cuddle, caress, even cradle each other.
Feel uncomfortable with this?
Talk to your partner about it.
And seek out a therapist to help you work through this.
Not in a relationship?
Go for regular massages. Touch therapy doesn’t have to come from a partner to receive some benefit.