Did you know that physical touch can be considered therapeutic? From hugs with friends, handshakes with coworkers, warm embraces from our grandparents and kisses
with loved ones, touch plays a huge role in our wellness.
When it comes to our FIIX treatments at TMB, you’ve probably heard us talk about the importance of fascia and functional bio-mechanics (spoiler alert: it’s one of our most FAVOURITE topics ever!) But today we’re going to talk about therapeutic physical touch in honour of us being allowed to open our FIIX services again as the COVID-19 lockdown begins to ease here in Ontario.
WHY IS PHYSICAL TOUCH IMPORTANT TO OUR HEALTH?
Touch is one of the five senses and it’s actually one of our first senses to develop from birth. As we grow, touch remains of central emotional importance throughout our lifespan too.
The virtual world is able to “replace” a lot of things – everything from virtual fitness instead of in-person studios, online shopping instead of malls, and ZOOM meetings instead of a boardroom. But one thing that all of our virtual goodies and technologies can’t touch – physical touch itself.
THE SCIENCE OF INTERPERSONAL TOUCH
There are actually studies that explore the health benefits of hugging and interpersonal touch. Research suggests that hugging someone can increase the production of oxytocin (a hormone linked to mood) and also have a positive impact our our endogenous opioid system.
(Did we nerd out too hard there?)
Basically what that means is that through the simple act of a hug, our brains release soothing, calming chemicals that can help reduce stress throughout the day, making us feel safe and secure by keeping our fight-or-flight response in check.
5 REASONS WHY PHYSICAL TOUCH IS IMPORTANT TO OUR WELLNESS
Now that you’re in the loop about some of the far reaching effects that physical touch has on our health and happiness, let’s dive in a little deeper, shall we?
Here are a few reasons that demonstrate the true importance of physical touch and why it is essential to our wellness.
(Note: Please be sure to respect health officials’ advisement about physical distancing during COVID-19. This article in no means is meant to bypass the guidelines and advisories set forth during the pandemic by health officials.)
PHYSICAL TOUCH IS YOUR
PRIMARY LOVE LANGUAGE
While some people relish alone time, others who rely on physical touch as their main love language, and use it to show or receive love, appreciation and affection, don’t thrive in isolation. For some people, hugging their bestie, touching the hand of a parent or sitting physically close to people at dinner can feel a lot like exhaling – it’s a natural stress reliever and comfort.
PHYSICAL TOUCH HAS
IMMUNE BOOSTING BENEFITS
Research shows that physical touch can boost our immunity. Pretty cool, right? This is huge news considering 80% of our immune system lives in our gut and our gut can affect our brain health, including our mood.
In one particular study from the journal of Psychological Science, social support and hugs were shown to boost the immune system of participants who had been subjected to the common cold. After monitoring the subjects for 14 days, not everyone was equally susceptible to falling ill. Those who had had more social interactions and experienced more hugs (aka physical touch) fought off the infection faster and showed milder and fewer symptoms. Forget ‘pretty cool’ – this is REALLY cool!
PHYSICAL TOUCH CAN
IMPACT OUR STRESS HORMONES
The more we study touch, the more we’re learning just how essential it is to our cognitive, emotional, developmental and behavioural health at all ages. The brain is in constant communication with the rest of the body, so when our brain detects something stressful other regions of the body, like the gut and immune system, are impacted (and vice versa).
A single touch can powerfully influence our body and our brain. Since touch has the power to soothe and comfort us, a lack of physical touch can actually boost our stress hormones and keep us in our fight or flight response longer. So break out the hugs folks!
PHYSICAL TOUCH IS OUR
FIRST FULLY DEVELOPED SENSE
Touch is developed as early as three weeks after conception, making it the first sense a baby will develop in the womb. That goes to show just how central it is to our development. Once a baby is born, touch becomes extremely important to overall mental and cognitive development.
You’ve most likely heard of “skin on skin,” an encouraged practice between a newborn and its parents, right? Well, that is all about touch. Studies show that a lack of touch during a child’s early years can actually slow the growth of infants. And physical touch continues to be crucial in old age too.
Our point? If touch is THIS important during our early years, being deprived of it in our daily life can have equally heavy impacts on our mind and body.
EVALUATE HOW MUCH PHYSICALITY THERE IS IN YOUR LIFE
The mental and physical benefits of physical touch, be it an arm around a friend, a peck on the cheek or a long squishy hug, are undeniable. Take some time to evaluate the amount of touch in your life and start upgrading your wellness!
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