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The Healing Power of Touch

Updated: Feb 21

Humans are inherently attuned to the sense of touch from the moment they are born. Several studies have proven that skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn baby provides a great deal of emotional & physical benefits to both the baby and the mother.

For example, it helps improve the nutrition absorption process, regulating body temperature, brain development, minimising pain, and other benefits alike.

On the other hand, the newly-turned mother is able to enjoy a very positive breastfeeding experience, lowered risk of postpartum depression, and reduced stress - and as a result of the skin-on-skin contact. Studies have also shown interesting developments in fathers, too. For example, improvement in mental health, etc.

Importance of Touch

Recalling an article that we read a couple of months ago about babies born during World War II. A handful of orphaned babies were used as test subjects by scientists.

They observed two sets of babies during that period -

  • One set of babies had all of their essential requirements fulfilled, but they also got the comfort of kind words and physical contact in addition to their physical needs.

  • The second group of babies were simply looked after for their basic requirements. They were not showered with kind words with no personal contact.

These babies were kept in cribs all day without any sort of contact, apart from having their diapers changed and being fed. They started to lose weight and got unwell, whereas the babies who were given special attention flourished and thrived.

Doctors recognised the significance of physical contact and the function it played in these children's happiness and development.

When you touch another person or someone touches you, a variety of physiological and biochemical responses occur, especially when the skin is moved. When you do that, you're activating pressure receptors, and those receptors send neurons to the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves (nerves that originate in the brain) that help slow down the central nervous system, placing your body in a more restful condition and lowering the stress hormone cortisol, according to Field. It may help boost the immune system by increasing natural "killer cells."

When another person touches you, your levels of serotonin — a neurotransmitter that serves as the body's natural antidepressant and pain reliever — rise.

Touch may enhance the hormone oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone, in addition to decreasing cortisol and increasing serotonin. “It's a bonding hormone that has to do with our feeling of trust and attachment. It's the hormone produced when mothers nurse; it strengthens the connection and makes you feel comfortable and secure”. Adults may use oxytocin to feel more comfortable in relationships and cope with stress, and research shows that it is particularly essential in the early stages of romantic relationships.

The Healing Power of Touch

A hug, massage therapy, or other kinds of contact may have a cortisol-lowering impact on someone who is ill, which can also be therapeutic! When cortisol levels are high, it raises blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation, making physical recovery more difficult. However, lowering cortisol lowers heart rate, which also lowers blood pressure, and improves the immune system's ability to function.

The Science Behind it

According to science, oxytocin may assist in healing by making you feel less alone and more socially connected, which aids psychological recovery. It's critical to be mentally well and grounded while coping with a severe illness.

According to one study, the advantages of contact are likely due to a combination of a mental (that sense of inclusion and support) and a physical reaction (the increase in oxytocin and pain-relieving substances, both of which downregulate the stress response). Another research discovered that therapeutic touch treatment and massage helped make cancer patients feel better.

People can convey a broader variety of emotions via touch than they do with words. Individuals may frequently be at a loss for words, particularly in a hospital environment. It's fascinating since some scientific studies indicate that individuals can convey a broader variety of emotions via touch than they can through words.

You may send a message of empathy, care, and compassion by just caressing a friend's arm or placing your hand on a family member's back. This is beneficial for both mental and physical reasons since when we feel physically linked, we are less nervous.

It's even possible to argue that personal touch may help you succeed. According to a 2010 research published in the journal Emotion, NBA teams with greater physical contact (think fist bumps, high fives, embraces, and team huddles) had higher team and individual performance results.

How can BodySense help?

When one experiences stress a nice hug from your loved one surely gives you instant relief. However, an hour-long therapeutic massage at BodySense will not only help reduce your body’s cortisol levels but also leave you feeling reinvigorated. Book a session now!

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