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The Importance of Touch

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

I Found That Story Very If you think about it there are many idiomatic references to the word "touch." As in the title above, we may find a romantic story very "touching." He or she "Touched my heart." "I embraced her ideas," "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." "That was a real pat on the back from my boss."

In fact, there are many non verbal expressions of touch in many aspects of our daily lives. If you watch football, baseball and football, you can see players express their emotions through touch. In a successful scoring play, they will bump chests, slap the behind of the player who had a successful play, give high fives to one another and even embrace at the end of a game.

We meet and greet and part from each other by shaking hands, kissing or hugging, depending on the kind of relationship we have with the others. Good friends may embrace and kiss. Men in the United States are more likely to shake hands. In France and other nations, men greet by kissing each side of the cheek upon greeting and parting.

It is not uncommon for a certain number of patients to complain that they could not remember their mom hugging or touching them. Of course, they admitted that during infancy they probably were touched. On one occasion, a patient expressed frustration and loneliness that no one ever touches them and they need that physical contact.

In the Positive Psychology News Daily, writer Kathryn Britton wrote an article entitled, "Touch and Trust" in which she reports on research that shows the importance of touching in our lives. Touching, hugging, hand shaking, kissing and other examples of tactile human contact, all express warmth, trust, affection and an endless variety of positive emotions, more than words could ever do. The impact is shown in performance

1. Team players who touch, as described above, perform better the more frequently they engage in this behavior.

2. Married and other intimate couples feel closer and more assured if they frequently touch. Many people give a warm embrace before leaving for work. We hug our children as they leave for school. A husband may rub his wife's feet. Some people rub soap onto their partner's back in the bath tub.

3. There is research that shows that touching reduces blood pressure.

4. Studies show that waiters or waitresses who give a light pat on the shoulder receive higher tips. I have noticed this myself. I have also noticed that I have a very positive reaction to that minor contact.

5. When stressed, touch has a calming effect, more than all the verbal expressions in the world.

This is called positive psychology because you can learn to incorporate these behaviors into your daily life even if you are not accustomed to it. The fact is that, as human beings, we need touch. It helps us feel better in endless number of ways. Try it, you will like it. Hug your children, wife or husband, shake hands with that neighbor or stranger you are meeting, etc.