When asked what our primal needs are, most people would respond with something along the lines of food, water, sunshine, and sex. However, our needs go far beyond that, with something that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: a need for affectionate touch.
From the moment of birth, a massive part of our development is being held, cuddled, hugged, and loved. Without touch, a developing baby will not develop properly and is at risk for serious mental disruption. When humans go without affectionate touch for a long period, they become something reminiscent of an animal, or rather a beast. It deprives us of a vital part of our spirit, our wellbeing, and our physical health.
If you don’t believe me, here are 7 science-backed reasons why human beings NEED physical touch.
1. Touch enables us to build trust with others.
According to Daniel Keltner, the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who cites Edmund Ross’ work, touch activates our orbitofrontal cortex. This part of the brain helps us to develop compassion and feel a sense of reward from the connection. Keltner says, “studies show that a simple touch can trigger the release of oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone.'”
2. Touch builds our immunity and decreases our risk for illness.
Additionally, physical touch builds our immunity and decreases our risk of disease. A study carried out by the University of North Caroline found that “Hugs strengthen the immune system…The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activate the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy and disease-free.”
3. Being touched decreases our risk to commit physical violence or harm against others.
When small children are not nurtured and affectionately touched by their parents as children, they are far more violent in adulthood. Child development research has proved this time and time again.
4. Touch decreases stress, depression, and anxiety.
Touch calms our nervous center and slows our heartbeat, while lowering the blood pressure and reducing the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our body. In turn, we are much less stressed, depressed and anxious when frequently touched.
5. Touch lowers our blood pressure.
Not only does affectionate touch lower our heart rate, but it also lowers our blood pressure. High blood pressure is often associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, so needless to say, we are much healthier when touched.
6. Touch increases our risk for survival, as it allows us to work with others as a team.
Physical touch creates pathways in the brain associated with compassion and trust, and in turn, allows us to develop a team dynamic with others. Since socialization and working alongside other people is important for our survival, we must be able to work alongside others.
7. Touch helps enhance the quality of our sleep.
And with lower blood pressure, decreased cortisol and a lower heart rate, it’s much easier for us to fall asleep and sleep deeply. Sleep is fundamental to all other aspects of our well-being. Without it, our mental and physical health suffers and our overall quality of life is decreased.