Our cities are so densely packed that getting enough touch doesn’t seem like a problem, but it is. We live in a strange time where we have less physical contact than our ancestors had even though we have more people per square mile than ever before. Though adult men don’t physically die like babies and small children who don’t get enough touch, we still suffer enormously without enough contact. Read this article and discover how touch impacts your life and the ways you can increase physical connection.
“(Touch) is the first language that we learn, our richest means of emotional expression,” says Dacher Keltner, psychology professor at the University of California Berkley and author of Born to be Good. Considering that touch is our “first language,” it stands to reason that we experience a disconnect without enough of it. The science of today backs up that idea. Here are areas of your life that are impacted by touch:
A lack of touch has been linked to violence, depressive behavior, hyperactivity, drug abuse, and aggression, according to research conducted by James W. Prescott. Both global violence and domestic violence have been linked to a lack of touch.
Getting what you want
Research has shown that you are more likely to get what you want by touching others when making requests. People are more receptive when in contact with each other, and a light touch on the shoulder or arm has been proven to increase compliance with unambiguous requests.
Touching also makes us more receptive to learning. A study published in 1987 showed that students who were platonically touched by their teachers had measurable increases in test scores as compared to the control groups. It’s widely known that increasing the variety of sensory inputs increases the likelihood of learning. Adding touch to learning experiences may increase your ability to retain information by decreasing stress.
Numerous studies have shown increases in immunity, mental health, and the ability to cope with stress when physical touch is increased. Living in densely packed urban areas without enough touch is like watching your happiness and dreams unfold while you are standing behind a glass pane, unable to experience them.
Muscle growth and hormones
It almost seems contradictory to think soft touch could be an important part of muscle gain, but studies have shown increases in growth hormones and prolactin alongside physical touch. The old term “gentle giant” now has some scientific validity to it, and self-proclaimed “teddy bears” can feel better knowing their lifestyle supports both physical and mental development.
How you can get more touch
If you’ve determined touch to be deficient in your life, here are some ways to get more of it.
1. Volunteer in touch therapy programs
Many hospitals throughout the globe have adopted touch therapy programs to help sick children and infants recover quickly. These programs rely on adults to volunteer their time in holding and interacting with young children. Not only do the children recover more quickly, but the volunteers experience reduced stress and increased well-being.
2. Visit a touch therapy practitioner
Touch therapy practitioners exist throughout the United States, and they are essentially updated practices of the age-old practice known as the laying on of hands. Colleges like the University of Minnesota and many other academic institutions endorse this healing modality, so don’t knock it before you try it.
3. Engage in team sports
High fives, “good games” (butt pats), hugs, chest bumps, back slaps, and shoulder grabs are all important forms of touch that guys can give and receive in a team sports setting. Studies have shown that professional basketball teams who have higher levels of touch also tend to perform better, which isn’t too much of a surprise given all the research on touch and coping with stress.
4. Play with your kids
Just as your kids need to be touched to develop properly, you need touch to be a balanced adult. Playing and roughhousing with kids is a great way to satisfy your need for touch while connecting with the little people in your life.
5. Get (and give) massages
Massages given by loved ones have been demonstrated to relieve depression and pain. If you are single, try exchanging massages with family members and friends when you see them.
Since touching has so much to do with emotional connection, guys have a hurdle to overcome before we can experience the many benefits of non-sexual physical contact. Men have been acculturated to repress emotions in order to attain a masculine image, so those who want to experience more physical contact will also have to pay more attention to their emotional states.
Try checking in a couple of times with yourself each day to see how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and what you can do about it. Use this helpful list to broaden your emotional IQ and help you identify the feelings you experience. Once you become more receptive to your emotions, you will become more receptive to touch.