Would you consider yourself a touchy-feely persony? I’ve certainly been in that boat. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved snuggling, massages, and holding hands. I know that other yogis feel the same way. There’s something about physical touch that has always felt simultaneously soothing and energizing. It makes us feel alive. A new study explains why.
The study, which was conducted by Aalto University and the University of Oxford, illustrates that our bodies possess specific touch maps that link to the types of social touch typically appropriate in a variety of relationships.
The closer the person in social relationship, the larger the body area this person is allowed to touch. The bodily maps of touch were similar in all five cultures studied. Social touching thus seems to be a biologically determined and evolutionarily developed way to form social relationships. The results were recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America.
Essentially, touching helps strengthen relationships. This form of nonverbal communication inspires intimacy and serves as an act of comfort.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you hug strangers on the street. The study provides a scale to show how different relationships warrant different levels of touch. For instance, partners warrant the most personal touch, and are followed by friend, then mother and father, brother and sister, extended family members, and finally acquaintances and strangers.
The study continues to elaborate on the benefit of physical communication:
‘The results emphasize the importance of non-verbal communication in social relationships. Social relationships are important for well-being throughout peoples’ life, and their lack poses a significant psychological and somatic health risk. Our results help to understand the mechanisms related to maintaining social relationships and the associated disorders,’ says Professor Lauri Nummenmaa.
This isn’t the only piece of evidence that illustrates the power of touch. Mercola Health discusses the power of hugging, and how it can decrease stress and boost endorphins. The article explains:
A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand-holding, also reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate. This makes sense, since hugging is known to lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
What are your opinions on physical intimacy? Do you get enough of it?
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the Internet via her blog at cozycaravan.com.