5 Benefits of Touch in Your Relationship
There is always something special about sharing a physical connection with your partner, but did you know that physical touch has health benefits of its own?
Why physical touch is so important in relationships?
Adding more physical touch to your daily interactions can improve more than your relationship with your partner – it could improve your physical health as well.
Humans, much like most animals, are social creatures. Most primates, for example, spend between a tenth and a fifth of their time in physical contact with each other.
Our brains are wired to release certain chemicals in response to different situations.
A stressful environment at work, for example, will trigger the release of cortisol (a stress hormone), while looking at pictures of loved ones can decrease pain perception.
Physical touch releases feel good hormones like oxytocin and serotonin. These hormones are vital for a healthy and balanced body. The benefits of touching your partner every day are manifold.
Tiffany Field, one of the pioneers in the field of research pertaining to the effects of touch, found that premature babies who received 15 minutes of touch therapy every day gained 47% more weight than those who didn’t.
Darlene Francis and Micheal Meany, on the other hand, discovered that rats who were licked and groomed more often while they grew up had stronger immune systems. They were also calmer in nature and showcased a greater resilience to stress, compared to those who didn’t have as much contact from their mothers.
How touch affects the brain
Physical touch from another person activates the part of the brain that is referred to as the orbitofrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that deals with sensations of reward and compassion.
Touch has a calming effect on the central nervous system and can reduce the negative effects of stress.
Since a rested nervous system can dedicate more energy to healing instead of preparing for the next bout of energy while expecting a perceived danger, touch increases the rate of physical recovery.
The orbitofrontal cortex also plays a major role in forming new bonds and relationships.
The more regularly you touch somebody, and the more regularly they touch you, the more likely you are to experience affectionate feelings towards that person. These effects can increase or fade away over time.
This is one of the many reasons why new partners experience greater feelings of love and infatuation at the beginning of their relationship: High amounts of physical touch and contact.
As the relationship progresses and becomes based on more than the physical aspect, people tend to make less physical contact with one another.
This reduces orbitofrontal cortex activation and lowers the effects of perceived reward and compassion in that particular relationship.
Every touch counts
The orbitofrontal cortex is activated whenever there is physical contact with another human being. This includes holding hands, stroking the skin, hugging or giving someone a pat on the back.
These small gestures can be compared to little drops that slowly begin to fill a large bowl that contains the love that you have for your significant other.
Touching someone regularly will increase the love that you feel for them. It will also increase the love that they feel for you. That is one of the ways physical touch helps your relationship.
Touch is initially automatic, but should progress into the realm of intention.
Have you ever noticed how a young, new couple can’t seem to get their hands off each other?
When we first fall in love, we are driven to make physical contact with our intention in order to establish a physical bond. We want to make as much physical contact as possible in order to build a physical tie with that person.
Assurance decreases the desire for touch
As the relationship becomes more assured, our desire to touch them regularly decreases because we become more secure with our existing bond with them.
We no longer do it because we don’t feel the need to do it. It is very similar to the fact that we may obsess over a certain goal until we have achieved it. Our mental energy is very quick to move on to the next task as soon as we have achieved something.
In the same way, our goal should transition from that of wanting to obtain a relationship with someone, to that of wanting to improve on or enjoy our relationship with that person.
It is easier to get passionate about relationship goals when they are definitive, i.e. ‘I want to be with you’. Once that goal is achieved, perseverance is the preferred source of motivation, instead of passion, in order to maintain that goal i.e. ‘Now that I am with you…’
For these reasons, touch is no longer something that we do whenever we feel like it, but an important form of communication that we use to convey love for what we already have.
This makes the majority of touch in established relationships intentional. We used to do it without thinking. Now we do it on purpose. It is important that you do not undermine the power of touch in relationships.
Experiment with touch to experience its benefits for yourself
I would like you to investigate the idea of using touch as a remedy for physical or mental ailments.
The next time you experience physical pain or feel a little depressed, touch your partner for as long as what seems appropriate. Give them a long hug, let them rest their legs on you or ask for a massage. Take note of how you feel afterwards.
If you feel better, you may have found a great and productive way to improve your own quality of life – along with that of your partner’s.
The positive benefits of touch increase with repetition
Most remedies and solutions deliver diminishing returns over time. But the The benefits of human touch to strengthen your relationship increase with repetition.
Certain pills, for example, have less of an effect on the body as it slowly adapts to the new chemicals. Physical touch, on the other hand, increases with repeated use. If you haven’t touched your partner in a while, it may feel awkward at first.
Doing so might leave you feeling vulnerable. Once the parts of the brain that derive pleasure and relaxation from touch become reactivated, the brain will begin to associate touch with enjoyment.
The more regularly you touch your partner, the greater the emotional and mental benefits will be with each physical action.
Let the small gestures like holding hands, stroking the neck or arms, patting them on the back, giving them a hug hello or goodbye or touching their arm become a regular part of your day, and your relationship will yield physical health benefits that flow from a strengthened relationship.
Hope that answers the question, “Why is touching an important part of a relationship?”
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