The Power of Touch

The positive side of touch. In today’s society, we are all in some way a little afraid to touch one another. Too many news stories over the years of creepers and bad touch have led to a NO touch society here in America. This saddens me. I remember when my kids were little and my hubby requested that I be the “dugout mom” to help the little guys and girls with the tying of shoes, tucking in of shirts or any bumps and bruises that may happen. He did not want anyone to see him touch a child and think it was inappropriate. How sad that a man who is great at coaching kids has to worry that a pat on the back after a good hit or a hug after a strikeout is being “inappropriate”.

Numerous studies have been done showing all of the positive benefits of touch: The immune response is found in the skin and benefits from receiving a lot of touches and has even shown a connection to people living longer. The increases in weight in premature babies when touched more. There is greater involvement from children in class when a teacher gives a child a pat on the back or a touch on the hand. Touch has been shown to calm patients with Alzheimer’s and children with Autism. The article by Dacher Keltner has lots of info regarding the power of touch.

The social functions of touch

provides a feeling of reward

reinforces reciprocity

signals safety


promotes cooperation

There is a great article in the New York Times discussing communication through touch. The article discusses a research paper that was done showing how people communicate with touch in sports.  The next time you turn on a game watch what happens on the sidelines. There are lots of high fives, pats on the backs (and butts), and hugs.

As a massage therapist, I also consider myself a touch therapist. It sounds more “woo woo” when I say touch therapist but I notice a difference in my clients after a massage. They are more relaxed and calm. They have come back exclaiming how more focused they feel days after, that they sleep better and can handle stress better. All of these benefits from a kind touch, one focused on empathy, compassion and caring.

Yes, we all need to be respectful of a person’s “bubble space” and their boundaries but a firm shake of the hand, a pat on the back, a hug to a crying child all have benefits for our society. I have been around those “touchy” families and “non-touchy ” families and observed a difference. I am sure you have too. Those who hug and touch sure seem a bit happier and more expressive with one another. Try a little experiment and just make a small effort to touch a little more and see how you feel. It may make a positive change in your life.