The experience of receiving the touch of another is an important part of physical and emotional health. Touch in the form of a hug, pat on the arm or a high five helps bond people and can be uplifting. The soft warm feel of a petís fur as you stroke him/her is calming and reassuring. The fluffy texture of a blanket, a teddy bear or an item of clothing is comforting.That warm bath at the end of a hard day is so relaxing and you are able to enjoy it because your skin registers the touch and warmth of the water.
When I meet up with a close friend or a family member we will have a hug. That touch is more than just a form of greeting. The touch helps social bonding and it makes me feel confident and accepted. Studies have shown that hugs reduce stress and are therapeutic. However, we know we feel good after a hug and donít really need studies to tell us they are beneficial.
I recall a time many years ago when I was going through an extremely stressful period. I had been offloading my stress to a male I knew. Our association wasn't one where a hug was part of the deal. He asked if he could give me a hug. It was a Ďspiritualí type of experience. I felt the stress just drain out of my body. The memory of that hug will always stay with me.
Even a brief touch on the arm or shoulder can have a positive impact on our social and emotional functioning. It makes us feel acknowledged and accepted. Touch triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin which makes us feel good and decreases stress.
Appropriate touch makes people more positive and less cynical. It also helps them recover more quickly from illness and surgery. Holding hands can lower sensitivity to pain. A massage is beneficial not just for loosening knotted muscles but because of the human touch.
Stroking and cuddling a pet is uplifting and helps relieve stress. I love a cuddle with my cat or dog. Coco, our dog, loves to sit on my lap while I stroke him. If I stop he will nuzzle my hand until I start stroking him again. The combination of touch plus the softness of his fur is both relaxing and uplifting.
Cuddling a fluffy teddy bear or a soft blanket is also soothing. A study showed people recover more quickly from social rejection if they cuddle a teddy bear. It is not only children who benefit from having a teddy bear.
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Touching soft fabric is soothing. In winter I love my fleecy dressing gown because the fabric is so soft. I donít buy clothes that are made of harsh feeling fabric even if the colours and style are just what I am looking for. If I wore something made of scratchy fabric I would be irritated all day long. I remember having a pale blue nylon blouse when I was a teenager that someone had handed on. It was scratchy and I only wore it once.
Cool sand trickling through my fingers is relaxing and helps dissipate stress. Touching soft moss in the garden or feeling the cool smoothness of a shell puts me in touch with Nature. A warm bath is very relaxing. A hot shower can be energising. The sense of touch enables me to benefit from these activities.
The sense of touch is an important part of leading an inspired life.