Outside of intimate relationships, human touch is hard to find. We don’t touch in the English speaking west and when we do it’s rare. Over the past few months I’ve been partaking in more activities that involve close contact with people.
Salsa and Acro Yoga have been the two activities I have started practicing more frequently and the first thing that’s apparent with each is the level of comfort experienced practitioners feel with touching strangers.
Connectivity and acceptance are two things we all crave. We want to feel apart of something and we want to feel accepted. Touch seems to satisfy these needs. Just think about when you meet a new group of people for the first time. If you’re greeted with a warm hug you instantly feel more at ease. This lack of touch may also be part of the reason for the growth in BJJ.
Benefits of Touch
In recent years, many studies have documented the emotional and physical health benefits of touch.
“Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction, and increasingly, many people are seeking out their own professional touchers and body arts teachers—chiropractors, physical therapists, Gestalt therapists, Rolfers, the Alexander-technique and Feldenkrais people, massage therapists, martial arts and T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructors. And some even wait in physicians’ offices for a physical examination for ailments with no organic cause—they wait to be touched.” – Sharon K. Farber.
As i mentioned above, touch helps to bond people together. Neuroscientist Edmund Rolls’ research has found that touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.
There are studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.”
According to developmental psychologist James W. Prescott, violence in society is related to a lack of mother child bonding. Child developmental research illustrates that the absence of physical bonding and healthy attachment between an adult and child may result in lifelong emotional disturbances.
There’s no denying that physical touch is an important part of human development. While it may feel uncomfortable initially, partaking in activities that require touch is a good first step to getting more comfortable with non intimate human touch. It may also be a case of making more of an effort to hug the people who are already close to you.