Touch: Why It’s Essential and How to Get It

Touch plays an important role in your health

Touch plays an important role in your health | Source: iStock

We thrive on touch. Studies have shown that without consistent physical contact, we are generally less happy and our ability to thrive is stunted. Unfortunately, lack of touch is becoming more of an issue for some due to society’s increasing reliance on technology. We are able to consume and connect to more information, yet we are becoming less physically connected as technology evolves. Kory Floyd, professor of communication at the University of Arizona, said those with an affection deficit are worse off in just about every area of their lives:

“…People who feel more affection-deprived are less happy; more lonely; more likely to experience depression and stress; and, in general, in worse health. They have less social support and lower relationship satisfaction. They experience more mood and anxiety disorders, and more secondary immune disorders (those that are acquired rather than inherited genetically). They are more likely to have alexithymia, a condition that impairs their ability to express and interpret emotion. Finally, they are more likely to have a preoccupied or fearful avoidant attachment style; they’re less likely to form secure attachments with others in their lives.”

Why touch is essential

Therapist Edie Weinstein said nurturing touch is essential. “Since our skin is our single biggest organ, it is essential that we experience nurturing touch. What can be referred to as ‘skin hunger,’ is as an important a need to feed as physiological hunger. Without it, studies have shown that babies fail to thrive. Without it, adults do as well. We live in such a touch-deprived and touch-negative society. Many people live alone or work in isolation. According to Virginia Satir, ‘we need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth,’” said Weinstein.

Touch has several benefits that extend beyond just feeling good. Sexual intimacy expert Sandra LaMorgese says experiencing nurturing touch can also improve your overall physical health. “The skin is the largest organ of the body, with millions of receptors right under the surface; receptors that, when stimulated by human touch, can lower our cortisol levels. Long-term high cortisol levels, which are usually a reaction to emotional stress, are associated with low libido, restless sleep, poor digestion, and low immune response. When someone touches our skin, though, through massaging, playing, hugging, hand-holding, or having physical sex, we begin to experience physiological and physical healing.”

How you can get more touch

a couple holding hands

Holding hands | Source: iStock

If you cannot get an adequate amount of touching in your daily life, think about looking for alternatives. Weinstein suggests participating in activities where touch is encouraged. One activity she recommends is attending a hug event or cuddle party. Weinstein is a certified facilitator of cuddle parties and coordinates free hug events. You can also take dance classes, book a massage, or volunteer to cuddle newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at your local hospital.

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