How Important is Touch, Really?

in life •  2 years ago  (edited)

A scientist took infant orphans and separated them into two groups. Both groups received the same nourishment, timely diaper changes, warmth, toys and stimulating objects and medical care. The Soviet scientist did only one thing different with the first group; he added a 12 year old girl who adored babies.

The girl would cuddle with her group of infants and sing them to sleep. She would play with them and talk to them all day.

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The other group did of course experience touch when fed and changed, but that was it. It was methodical, clinical, and just long enough to bring the task to completion.

The findings were quite profound. The babies who were raised with cuddles and touch developed faster than the other group- they crawled and walked and spoke weeks sooner than the untouched group of children. Their immunity was far stronger, too, so they experienced less and sometimes no colds, ear infections, and other infectious childhood maladies.

They grew larger and stronger, whereas the other group was thinner, weighed less, and more frail.

These babies were adopted faster. They were happy and brought joy to the visitors.

The other babies didn't smile.

Human Touch is the Ultimate Mind/Body Cure

Human touch is important. It is comforting, and can say much more than words can express. It lowers blood pressure and releases the body's pain relieving chemicals. It raises the immune system, leaving us less likely to be affected by passing viruses and bugs.

When I was in High School, I was turned on to the phrase 8 Hugs a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. I haven't found a single argument against that theory yet.

A simple hug releases anxiety. I believe this is the reason for the sharp increase in anxiety diagnosis today. People are spending more time communicating via screens and less in personal contact. A "virtual" hug does nothing for the release of the body's natural feel good hormones.

A few years ago the massage industry took off and researchers grew interested. They measured the immune function in healthy adults before and after a 45 minute massage vs a group who meditated alone for the same amount of time. The adults in the massaged group had significantly more white blood cells and killer cells- which are responsible for fighting viruses and pathogens, than the group who relaxed alone, and over time had fewer inflammatory cytokines associated with diseases.

It's important to realize skin is the body's largest organ. There are 100 trillion neural connections from your skin to your brain! That's 1000 times the number of stars in our galaxy! There are about 2 billion nerve endings in the outermost layer of our skin. When you are touched, the signal travels at 268 MPH along the alpha neuron in the spine- the fastest transmission in the human body.

When you are touched, the pressure receptors at the point of contact, called Pacinian Corpusles, send signals directly to the Vagus Nerve- an important nerve bundle deep in the brain referred to as "The Wanderer" because it has branches that wander through the body to several organs including the heart. It's the Vagus Nerve that slows the heart and lowers blood pressure.

Studies in which subjects were made to perform something stressful like an exam or public speaking with a friend who held their hand or placed a comforting touch on their arm performed better, and had lower recorded heart rates and blood pressure, suggesting the simple act of being touched during the even made it less stressful.

This is why we instinctively put our arms around someone when they are experiencing a traumatic event. Our instincts know our simple touch will help them through this a little bit.

Not only does hugging and holding reduce Cortisol- the body's stress hormone, touch prompts the body to produce oxytocin, aka "the cuddle" hormone, which affects trust.

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide which promotes feelings of trust, devotion, and bonding. It is why you are drawn to cuddling your intimate partner- the "cuddling hormone" makes you feel closer and actually bonds you two together for a future.

The Orbital Frontal Cortex (OFC) area in the brain becomes highly activated in response to a friendly touch. Located just above the eyes, it's the same area of the brain that responds to pleasant scents and sweets. The OFC lights up from just a small touch on the arm, meaning touch is a very powerful rewarding stimulus. The subsequent release of oxytocin makes you feel connected and more trusting, and the surge of electrical impulses lower your blood pressure and slow your heart which makes you feel more relaxed and less stressed.

This intricate and complex series of events that takes over your body and brain and changes your health and life is amazingly initiated by a seemingly simple supportive touch.

Images via Free Hugs Campaign Looney Tunes, Pixabay, Pexels and Creative Commons.

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I used to be a massage therapist. We learned a lot about the human need for touch. One study I found fascinating was how people in prisons lose their ability to bond because they are never touched.

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That is fascinating. And tragic. Makes you wonder if that is at least a percentage of why they reoffend...

Your comprehensive feedback is live :)

Here is Part Two of Issue #7 for your convenience:

https://steemit.com/buildawhale/@buildawhale/curation-digest-issue-7-part-ii

Congrats again :)

Namaste

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Thank you :) I am still in awe <3

You're doing a grand thing here, keep it up!

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Awh shucks thanks, will do :)

And thanks again for all you do. You are definitely helping out this Steemit community so much.

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Your kind words really mean a lot <3

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Awh thanks :)

There are so many aspects of this that jump out at me. As a survivor of trauma, touch and I have a tumultuous relationship. As an autist and the mother of any autist, we have a service dog who provides tactile grounding via deep pressure therapy during instances of overstimulation. In fact, he was just on my lap. :)

What I'm pointing at here is that even when I can't accept touch from humans, that touch is vital. This post has left me with a lot to think about, not the least of which was my recent commitment to find a massage therapist--a commitment I have yet to follow up on.

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What you are describing kept dangling about in my mind as I was writing this, but I could not quite approach it with the fairness it deserved as I do not know firsthand what it must be like.

Perhaps your analysis can bring a deeper understanding for a future article? That would be a must read :)

Thank you for reading, I am honored to have sparked a wheel :)

Excellent post! For years I had forgotten the importance and healing power of touch. It truly is so important for both physical and mental well-being.

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I truly believe it is not only important, it is a necessity!

Love this post!!! Thanks for sharing...touch release so many feel good hormones and affects our health & wellbeing

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Yes. It is one of the very best things for us :)

How easily we can forget that one simple act of touch can bring healing and joy to someone else. My dog is a certified visiting dog, which means we go to (or used to go to before the kids came along these past two years) nursing homes to visit the residents. How the residents' eyes would light up when they would pet him or I would simply touch their hand. I miss doing that for them, and would love to get back to doing it once more. Your post reminded me how needed it is!

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Awe, I can just picture their faces, what a special thing to do :)

Sounds like that's something that needs to be done. PS I've heard that children are treasured rarities at nursing homes, too ;)

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I used to take the little guy when it was just the two of us and they loved him (although the activities director at the nursing home did not like him coming). But the baby girl came alon and she was a preemie so we had to put our visits on pause. I couldn't risk having her catch anything. So I will have to figure something out so I can start that up again!

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Oh I would simply adore if you could get some photos, too :)

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I will try to do that! I'm not allowed to take pictures of the residents but I can of my dog :-). He doesn't care! Ha!

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lol! That kinda sucks, tho. If it could be advertised and shared I am positive that after seeing what it does for the residents more people would apply to do such things

Not only does your dog not care, I'm sure relishes the attention!

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I'm part of a group in our area called Pet Pals. It's a group that trains their volunteers in animal assisted therapy. The animals have to go through a temperament and behavior screening and then pass a vet physical as well. It's actually a pretty large group where I live! It's pretty neat. But, yes, allowing other people to glimpse the good that it does could definitely help!

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Oh that is so amazing. Here we just have a few random volunteers, I'm sure there are organizations but not large enough to have appeared on my radar.

Great read and info. Growing up in a Korean family we didn't do much hugging or affectionate touching but that changed when my sister was born. And over the years I've not only become more comfortable with that type of contact but I've experienced and crave it. Following to read more of your work.

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Interesting. Why did that change when your sister was born?

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Mom married an American my stepdad who grew up with a very verbally and physically affectionate family and when she was born we all loved her so much we couldn't help but become more that way. She's 31 and I still want to squeeze her cheeks and hold her as if she's 3. She obviously is less excited about that. 🤣

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She's 31 and I still want to squeeze her cheeks and hold her as if she's 3. She obviously is less excited about that.

I can imagine! LOL!!!

8 Hugs a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.

Holding that one close for a rainy day. :)

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:)

Every day, rain or shine, hugs are good all the time ;)

Lol, I totally just made that up on the fly, not intending to rhy

I better stop now.

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For making that up on the fly, you brought a good laugh to this guy. ;)

Does touching yourself count?

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lol I don't think it's going to bring about the same effects...

;)

very VERY interesting factual side of it. I wrote a post the other day about something a little similar, but from a completely different approach... perhaps you will appreciate it too?

https://steemit.com/life/@jaynie/the-seduction-of-the-senses

What an excellent post. 🙏🏽 Well written, easy to understand, you share supporting data and explanations but it is still concise enough and not too long. And then the topic is the best thing of all...how to live better, feel better, improved wellness and happiness. Touch!! 🙌🏽 Thank you for posting this. Resteeming and following you.

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Thank you so much! That really means a lot <3

Touch is very important and honestly I don't know how I'd make it through the day if I didn't have my wife to come home to and be close to every evening. It makes all the frustrations of working in corporate america and life in general worth it.

As far as massage is concerned, I feel it's just as good as if not better than going to see a shrink to talk about problems / anxiety. I started getting monthly massages about six years ago when I started running 2-3 marathons every year and I never miss my massages now. I'm very much looking forward to my massage this afternoon as I most always have knots in my back from sitting at a computer so many hours a day. Exercise and yoga only makes my back feel worse lately it seems like. I think my desk job is where the tension originates in my back, shoulders and neck and I can't seem to find a way to relieve it other than getting massages frequently. If I could afford to go 2-3x per week I would and maybe someday I will be able to do this once I get my own business ventures really going and I'm making more money.

I enjoyed reading your post and couldn't agree more.

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Watch out for your chest, too. Desk jobs are hunching over phones is bringing strange new pains and conditions. Posture when you remember!

Massages are so good for you in many ways. And your body tells you how much you need it if you skip a session!

Thank you!

Ayyyyy congrats o weeeee :)

This post made it to the top five in @buildawhale's Curation Digest.

Here is the link for your convenience: https://steemit.com/buildawhale/@buildawhale/curation-digest-issue-7

Congrats again :)

Namaste

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Awesome! Thank you so much <3

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You're welcome :)

this article about touch was touching 👌👏

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I am pleased to have touched your heartstrings :)

Thank you <3