touch healsReceiving touch is a primary way to reduce stress and calm the nervous system.

There is a growing body of research that shows a link between many forms of touch—from massage to hand-holding—and improved health. A study from the University of North Carolina found that sitting in close contact with a partner for just 10 minutes lowered blood pressure. Other research has found that physical contact can trigger a boost in serotonin, a natural antidepressant.

Biological changes after a single massage

In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects, says Mark Rapport, MD, director of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He reports that they’re finding biological changes associated with a single massage session. ‘That’s saying something,’ he says.

Easy ways to get more touch

Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommends getting a ‘regular dose’ of touch. Here are some easy ways to incorporate more touch into your life:

  • Get regular massage. It’s a form of preventive care and can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.
  • Find a hands-on form of exercise such as ballroom dancing. Or do yoga, which stimulates pressure receptors so is a form of self-massage.
  • Hug someone awarely (the longer the better). You stimulate their pressure receptors as well as your own.
  • Sit close to your partner more often, and hold hands.
  • Give your children short backrubs when you put them to bed. They will fall asleep more relaxed, and you get the benefit of touch, too!

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