Diana Kelly Levey

4 Ways Physical Touch Keeps You Healthy

August 26, 2018 | Categories:

If you and your partner regularly find yourselves sleeping on opposite sides of the bed, science says you’ll enjoy physical and psychological benefits from spending some time cuddling in each others’ arms. Whether it’s an intimate tangle or a heartfelt hug, physical touch with a loved one is healthy in many ways. Here, happiness expert Andrea F. Polard, Psy.D., discusses the benefits of touch.

(Get tips on how to improve your relationship from Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages book.)

It creates a sense of security.

Our bodies are neurologically wired, and when we’re touched, our senses are ignited through the skin, and our brain gets a message,” says Polard. The skin’s sensory nerve endings are hooked up to the part of the brain that handles emotional response. When you’re touched, your brain gets the message that you’re feeling safe, secure, and good. Reignite your relationship in 10 minutes or less.

It reduces stress.

If you’ve had an overwhelming day, a good hug from your partner can do wonders to help you feel more relaxed. There’s a neurological reaction that travels from the skin to the brain in split-seconds after we’re touched. This chemical reaction tells the emotional center of the brain, the amygdala, that you can relax. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases the release of positive hormones, like oxytocin, also known as “the cuddle hormone.” Touch stimulates oxytocin, and more oxytocin instantly informs the brain that we are bonding with someone and feeling calm. Here, signs you’re way too stressed and how to deal.

It helps improve heart health.

“When you are feeling subjectively reassured, you also reduce blood pressure, your pulse goes down, and you are calming your body, which puts less stress on your heart,” according to Polard. All of these physical benefits of hugging and touch can lead to a healthier, longer life. ‘The cells that give the brain stem a message that all is okay have an immediate impact on these lower regions of the brain that affect things like sweating, blood pressure and pulse, which all add up to better health.”

It may help you avoid catching colds and the flu.

“Every time you lower your stress hormone cortisol, you are increasing your ability to fight disease, which has an impact on your immune system,” Polard says. Stress and cortisol tax your immune system, so when you reduce those factors, you’re keeping your immunity running efficiently, making you less likely to get sick.

Whether it’s a cuddle with your partner or a heartfelt hug with your kids, the simple act of touch can brighten a bad day, help you relax, and even fight off illnesses. If you’re not making time for it, you’re missing out on one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve your overall well-being.

This was originally written for Pfizer’s Get Old campaign.

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