I think it is funny that there are little things that we do every single day that have huge impacts on us that we don’t even think about. For instance, the simple act of holding someone’s hand can have a profound effect on your mind and body that most people don’t even give a second thought to. Think about it: we all remember back in our childhood the first time that special boy or girl held our hand on the playground. Or as awkward teenagers holding hands in a movie theater.
Walking with our parents, reaching out for their hand for security. Holding hands is innocently intimate and powerfully therapeutic. Our hands are our tactile connection to the world and are connected to our brains with one of the highest concentrations of nerve endings in the body. Therefore, there is a lot more to a simple grasping of another person’s hand than we often give credit to.
Research has shown that holding someone’s hand reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. What’s more interesting about this is that when cortisol levels are highest, our skin actually gets more sensitive, so the healing touch of another person’s hand is most effective when stress levels are highest. It’s almost like our bodies have a built in off-switch for cortisol. This reduction of cortisol is beneficial for the heart, circulatory system, and brain. Essentially, holding hands can make you healthier.
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If you and a friend are walking in the woods alone at night and you hear a noise that startles you, what is the first thing your reach for? Each other’s hand’s right? I used to think this was just a conditioned response from childhood from our parents always holding our hands any time there was a dangerous situation, but it turns out that it is basic human nature. It could be a response to the reduction of cortisol as well, but there is just something comforting about holding someone’s hand when stuff gets scary.
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Enhances Emotional Connections
Just like holding hands reduces cortisol, it increases oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone” because it gives us a sense of connection and bonding. Oxytocin is also responsible for a lot of the most basic component of love in the brain, so it’s pretty important to have as much of it flowing through your brain as possible.
A natural human reaction to intense pain is to squeeze your hands together in a fist. When you add in the natural security and bonding components of hand-holding, there is a natural pain reduction effect. Like a husband gripping his wife’s hand during childbirth. The combination of bonding, stress relief, and security is a time-proven pain reducer.