We live in a time where we connect so much through a digital platform that non-sexual physical contact among humans is becoming incredibly rare.
There’s even this fear or feeling of being “creeped out” by a simple hand hold or an arm brushing up against ours.
I never understood this. In fact, I love personal contact.
So much so that my friends have become quite used to my reaching over and grabbing their hands in the middle of a conversation. Or in complete silence. Or if they’re in a conversation that I’m not a part of.
I just like it.
Obviously, sometimes they think it’s weird. Because it is kind of…different.
But, being the conversationalist that I am, I have asked for feedback.
Once the initial surprise of un-solicited contact is over, they always report that there’s something nice about it.
That it gives a sense of quiet reassurance and even negates feelings of being alone.
I find that these small acts of physical touch create moments that accomplish much more than words, texts, photos, etc.
All of those things are important, too, but touch elicits something different in us, and I’m not just talking from a romantic/sexual standpoint. That’s a whole other topic.
In short, yes, the more you casually touch your partner or the person you’re pursuing, the more likely you are to find success in the relationship/budding relationship. Research supports this.
It just saddens me that harmless acts of affection have become foreign.
Lucky for all of you, this topic is being studied much more as we navigate further and further away from human-to-human interactions.
I swear I’m not just that weird girl who walks around grabbing people’s hands for no reason.
Now, I’ll geek out a little and share some of my favorite evidence concerning this very matter!
Founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, Dacher Keltner, has done extensive research in the science of touch and the importance of interpersonal touch and how it correlates with human compassion.
In his article, Hands On Research: The Science of Touch, Keltner says that simple gestures such as handshakes or pats on the back are a “primary means for spreading compassion” amongst humans. COMPASSION!!
In terms of compassion and caring, there’s no such thing as too much.
Just grasping someone’s elbow for 0.5 seconds during a conversation can immediately make you more empathetic towards that individual. EMPATHY!!
That empathy can then translate into a sense of comfort between both of you. A genuine connection. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
Keltner and a group of researches investigated one’s ability to recognize compassion, anger, love, disgust and gratitude amongst other emotions simply by a one-second touch of his/her forearm from a stranger.
The study continued and asked if one was able to recognize what emotion was being conveyed solely by watching two individuals touch.
Those who were guessing were able to guess the correct emotion a majority of the time, providing significant evidence that their guesses weren’t solely left to chance.
Keltner also sites neuroscientist Edmund Rolls, who investigated the physiologic effects of personal touch.
Imagine that feeling you get when you curl up next to someone you love at the end of a long, stressful day. *Bliss*
Or when someone just pulls you into their arms when words won’t do the trick. *Relief*
Rolls found that touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is correlated with a human’s feelings of reward and compassion. Sounds familiar, right?
He also says that a basic warm touch can calm our cardiovascular system and activate our vagus nerve.
Keltner poetically describes the vagus nerve in saying that it “is intimately involved in our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone.'”
A hug upon greeting a new person can release this oxytocin, which would then make that person more inclined to treat you with more trust and comfortability.
Have you ever met a person and immediately felt like you’ve known them your entire life? Well, there ya go.
Studies have even shown that a simple touch can have an improved economic effect on individuals as it creates greater “trust and generosity.”
A small touch on the back or hand can actually encourage people to cooperate and share in a business setting rather than act competitively.
Keltner’s research also found that if a doctor and/or healthcare professional allows moments of direct eye contact (eye contact is a whole other important topic to be addressed) and a simple pat on the back before exiting the room, the patient’s morale and trust in the doctor are considerably increased.
There is even a well-researched correlation between increased personal touch and decreased violent behavior.
Developmental neuropsychologist James W. Prescott found that infants who are engaged in a fair amount of “physical affection” are later characterized as “non-violent adults.”
Enough research has been done to raise the question that if personal touch is creating greater senses of trust, communication, peaceful behavior and empathy, why aren’t we doing it more?
The mass quantities of violent and impulsive behavior in the United States (and the whole world…) have been in the spotlight constantly.
It’s an interesting notion that small gestures of physical touch could decrease the amount conflict between humans.
Strong relationships are built upon proper trust and understanding; and our world essentially runs on a giant series of interpersonal relationships starting at the top with our government.
If physical touch can directly create these emotions that are pertinent to a strong relationship, we need to be doing more of it.
I’m not saying we need to go around inappropriately invading one another’s space, but it shouldn’t be frowned upon to briefly touch someone’s hand during a conversation.
Apparently, it should be encouraged.
Maybe we can regain some of the human habits we’ve lost to technology.
Or not. I don’t know.
Just spread the love. Always!
Emily Perrott, The Sunflower Child