Touching another person brings physical and emotional benefits. Whether a simple pat on the back, a handshake or a good hug, physical contact increases the feeling of happiness and security. This occurs, among other reasons, because oxytocin—called the love hormone—is released. And it has been found that human touch reduces stress levels and helps to relax. So next time you feel someone be sure you’re giving and receiving a dose of wellbeing.
Hispanic and Mediterranean cultures foster human contact. It is common to touch, hug and feel the other person. This is also evident in our physical space: we usually tend to reduce the distance that separates us from those around us. We like to feel each other’s proximity, and that’s good for communication because many non-verbal elements are reinforced when we are closer.
Nonverbal elements are reinforced when we are closer.
As humans, we crave physical contact—we are all born with a taste for closeness, and in fact, we need it. It has been found that a baby who is hugged and caressed with affection usually grows to be a more balanced and confident individual.
A recent study found that couples in France touch each other an average of 100 times during dinner. For Americans, the figure is two, and although the pace of conversation may be similar, it is clear that physical contact promotes a higher level of intimacy and connection. The French have a habit of greeting each other with two kisses on the cheek, which already gives them an advantage from the start.
You may wonder why there are people who resist physical contact. The reason usually comes from unpleasant or traumatic experiences that generate an aversion to intimacy, but it is also influenced by education and culture. Marking a distance, avoiding hugs, tightening the body during contact are automatic and often unconscious reactions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is an aspect that a person can change as a way to improve relations with himself and others.
Humans are born with a need for personal contact.
To be “in touch” helps to engage the mind and body, so we invite you to pay attention to what you feel every time you have physical contact with another person. And if possible, touch each other more frequently. I’m obviously talking about a respectful and affectionate touch, where not only the skin is involved, but also the heart. And if you can manage to include more hugs in your day, so much the better. It is an excellent way to give and receive a good medicine.
Eli Bravo is the Managing Director and Chief Editor of Inspirulina, a Spanish content website with articles on wellness, personal growth, and health. ■