From the time of birth, touch is essential in order to thrive. Those babies who are deprived of this contact usually fail to thrive and suffer developmental delays. They have great difficulty bonding emotionally with other humans. The various aspects of touch and how it impacts physical and emotional well-being is complex.
What happens when you are touched?
A complex set of effects are activated with a touch. Skin has a network of sensors within the nerve endings of the skin. One sensor detects texture, another vibration, and another pressure. As a result of touching, the stress hormone cortisol can be lowered, and an increase in the level of oxytocin occurs. The hormone, oxytocin is crucial to mother and child bonding beginning at birth. Among other benefits, touch gives you a pleasurable feeling contributing to a sense of well-being.
Kinds of touching
∙ Bonding touch: This type of touching occurs over time and is like glue that can hold parents, children, relatives and friends together for years.
∙ Intimate touch: This practice usually involves total body contact with skin-to-skin closeness and has a multitude of benefits. If you don’t have a sexual partner, dancing provides plenty of exchanges of touch.
∙ Nonsexual touch: Casual touching includes touch that may occur at the work place, community events, and sports events. It may be in the form of a hug, handshake, slap on the back, or high fives. These touches are instrumental in the nurturing of sympathy, trust and thankfulness. Beauticians and manicurists are often trained to massage their client’s scalp and hands as they work. Stroking your pet is a great way to gain physical and emotional benefits.
∙ Therapeutic touch: A professional massage is not just to relieve sore muscles. Reduction in heart rate and blood pressure often occur after a massage. With regular massages, your body can recharge itself and lead to a stronger immune system.
∙ Touch in the elder years: It’s an unfortunate circumstance that as you age, you lose many nerve endings. So by the time you reach 80, you only have one-quarter of the nerve endings that you had as a 20-year-old. This loss impacts the quality of life for elders, but elders still have a need and desire for touch. Family members and elder-care facilities need to become more aware of this need.
The act of touching is a crucial need for human beings affecting their well-being in many ways. More research needs to be done on the complex nature of touch with the hope of conveying the importance of touch to humans and how best to help people to make touch a more important part of their life.