Touch is a sense we generally discard as one of the lesser-used of our senses, favoring vision and hearing as more important.
Physical touch is, however, one of the most important senses; in fact, it may be the most important of all of them.
I consider this as I type these words into my computer, as I lift my coffee cup to my lips, as I hug a friend while we stand in the sunshine on the sidewalk after running into each other unexpectedly. There is so much conveyed in each of these touches, and only one of them involves another person!!
Touch is huge! Here’s why:
1. Physical touch helps your healing.
Massage, acupuncture and other specific remedies involving touch have been used for centuries. A mother’s voice or a father’s familiar hand lifting her may calm a crying baby almost instantly. And touch can heal our minds, too: licensed psychologists can use touch to help anyone from victims of sexual assault to a couple struggling to realize their love for each other.
2. Touch helps to give and receive positive energy.
Okay, now, before you think I’ve gone off the deep end with this one, there’s actual science backing it. Positive touch -a hug from a friend, putting a hand on someone’s arm to guide them or just to affirm your closeness- releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone. It actually makes us feel better, giving and receiving positive energy through touch.
3. Physical touch helps compel others to give you what you need.
How many times have you rested your hand lightly or perhaps more than lightly on someone’s arm to drive home a point you’re trying to make? It happens pretty frequently, and it’s all about using touch to get what you need.
4. Touch helps you to connect to other people.
Our sense of our physical being is what gives us emotions. The proximity we have to others -to loved ones, to strangers- starts to tickle those emotions, and when you initiate a handshake or hug a stranger or a friend it sets off different emotions. But it’s how we connect to others, whether that connection is happiness or anxiety, love or fear. I remember doing a “Free Hugs” project with some friends during a fall festival in my old hometown and every time someone hugged me I just felt better and better and better. By the time I went home, I was SOARING. It was literally the best I have ever felt.
5. Touch helps us communicate.
Think of the last time you rested your hand on someone’s arm or shoulder. Were you sharing a joke? Meeting for coffee? Having lunch together? Touch initiates a bond that assists us in communicating our desires and dreams, our exaggerations and dramas, our defeats and failures, and of course, our successes. I remember when I got accepted to the university at which I studied for my Bachelor’s degree. I had been checking the mail, hopeful, for weeks, and when my acceptance letter FINALLY arrived, I ripped it open on the way back to my house from our neighborhood mailboxes and started hollering and cheering from the street. My mom met me just outside the front door and we hugged and laughed and hugged and cried. It was awesome. We just kept hugging each other.