Human beings like to experience physical contact. From an Indian head massage to a gentle caress by our lover’s hand, touch is one of the major natural medicines that help us stay healthy in mind, body and heart.
Touch can considerably reduce stress, lowering our blood pressure and heart rate, boosting our immune system in the process, and relieving pain. It makes us happier, less anxious and re-affirms bonds within relationships.
There are many ways in which touch can reduce stress and help to prevent adrenal fatigue. Here are just five of them:
Massages, even quick ones, cause our muscles to unclench, our heart rate to slow and our blood pressure to fall. If your stress hormone levels are elevated, they will begin to decrease when healing hands give us a rub down. By triggering the “Relaxation Response” and engaging the Parasympathetic Nervous System, this can help to regulate your immune system and much more.
2. A bear hug a day keeps the therapist away
When somebody embraces us, our bodies are typically flooded with oxytocin. This acts as a “bonding hormone”, making us feel secure and trusting the other person. The hormone is known to reduce cortisol levels, which lowers the stress on your adrenals and HPA Axis.
Research by the University of North Carolina shows that women who are hugged more often by their partners show higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates. And according to research done at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, it’s not just hugs by our partners that make us calmer. Students who were hugged by their mothers up to an hour after on onstage presentation showed demonstrably lower stress levels.
3. Stress-busting animals
Snuggling up with your pet can seriously reduce stress levels – in both mammals! Scratch your cat or dog behind the ears or tickle their tummies and both of you will experience a sense of comfort and calm. Indeed, research shows that people’s blood pressure falls when they touch dogs, especially when this is their own pet, a beloved member of their household.
Research has also shown that people feel their pain is being eased when they pet dogs. This may just be their perception, but there is scientific evidence that their immune system functions better after petting their dog.
Brad Lichtenstein, a naturopathic physician and assistant professor working for the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University in Seattle, explains this phenomena: “You’re focusing on the animal, not on you, so your mind isn’t able to ruminate about the pain.”
For this reason many hospitals, especially those dealing with long-term elderly patients, allow pets onto wards. Recovery is faster, because patients feel less stressed by their unfamiliar environment.
4. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
The old Beatles’ song had it right: holding hands with your sweetheart, entwining your fingers with your loved one, has a hugely calming effect. It reduces stress activity in the part of our brains called the hypothalamus, which reduces the levels of cortisol bubbling throughout our bodies. Holding hands with your honey also reduces stress in the area of your brains that registers pain. This means while holding hands people will experience less pain acutely.
5. Making love
It won’t come as a great surprise that having sex, or total body contact, floods our bodies with oxytocin and” happy” endorphins that make us feel on top of the world – especially when reaching orgasm!
Having regular sex may even improve physical health, preventing us from falling sick as often. According to research by Wilkes University, people who have sex once or twice a week are less likely to fall ill because they show 30 percent more infection-busting immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva.