I recently got a massage. I rarely treat myself in this way, but
it was a good opportunity to release tension I have accumulated in
my body over time. As I was laying on the massage table, I sensed a
calming effect and relaxed into the moment. When I walked out of
the spa, I started thinking about the nature of touch and its
importance in our daily lives.
I decided to do a little bit of research to learn more. A quick
online search revealed that touch is the first sense we acquire. It
can thus be considered our first language. And because we cannot
touch without being touched, it is essential that we understand its
various roles. Let's take a closer look.
Touch is a non-verbal language
Many of us think of language as the words we say or write. But
research shows that most of our interpersonal communication is
actually non-verbal and that touch is a key player in our
interactions with other people. Researchers have long studied and
the complex emotions that our posture, motions, and expressions
reveal. Indeed, we appear to be wired to interpret the touch of
our fellow humans. If touch is a language, it seems we
instinctively know how to use it. But, as with many instinctual
things, touch is a skill most of us take for granted.
Touch is a beneficial two-way street
In terms of positive touch, it does not matter if you are doing
the touching or if you are the recipient of the action. There are
many beneficial physiological consequences of touch. The person
touching may (through for instance, a hug) indicate appreciation,
inclusion, or positive intent of their actions. As the
recipient's oxytocin levels rise, his or her heart rate may
decline. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami
links touch to many benefits: better sleep, reduced
irritability, and increased sociability (among infants). A
parent's touch enhances the bond with a child; it can signify
security. In romantic relationships, touch is one of the most
fundamental way of communicating intimacy.
Touch is a skill to appreciate and to keep developing as we go
through our lives. As the science suggests, we are "
wired to-we need to-connect with other people." My post-massage
revelation and my everyday interactions (e.g., handshakes, pats on
the back, hugs) have convinced me of the essential role touch plays
in our lives.