There are innumerable studies on the benefits of physical contact and almost all reach the same conclusion: touch contains several secrets related to well-being. It is not by chance that it is the meaning that we have developed at birth.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a society, above all, in the big cities, which invites us to the opposite: not to touch us. Any friction becomes suspicious or annoying. We want to connect with others through a device, at a distance. Little by little, we lose the valuable benefits of physical contact and, even so, we wonder why there is so much psychological distress in the world.
“The caress numbs, and a region leads closer to the earth, to its silence and dream, well stretched, happy.”
The skin is, literally speaking, an extension of the nervous system. Therefore, tactile perceptions are translated almost automatically into physiological states of the brain. Skin-to-skin contact affects our well-being and is a valuable source of mental health. Let’s deepen.
Good health, one of the benefits of physical contact
Science has proven that a friendly touch makes the skin emit a signal to the brain. The main effect of this is a reduction in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This, in turn, disinhibits the production of lymphocytes, which are the first line of defense of the immune system.
Likewise, it was proven that another benefit of physical contact is that it increases the production of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. All these hormones play an important role in the feeling of well-being.
For example, there is a study with women who frequently suffer from migraines. Some of them were given a simple massage. All those who had access to that physical contact, experienced that their pain diminished. In another investigation, an electric shock was applied to some volunteers. Those who took her husband’s hand felt the discharge less rigorously.
Physical contact affects persuasion
Dr. Nicolás Gueguen, from the Université de Bretagne-Sud, has studied in detail the benefits of physical contact. Through his experiments, he was able to verify that a subtle touch on the upper arm greatly increases the chances of one person accepting the requests of another.
It was verified that, for example, the waitresses receive a better tip in the restaurants, if they establish that physical contact with the clients. This was called “the touch of Midas.” Also, in another study it was found that people were more willing to give a cigarette to those who requested it, if they had received that soft touch on the upper arm.
In another study, a false street survey was proposed. The results indicated that only 40% of the bystanders showed willingness to respond when there was no physical contact. On the other hand, when a subtle touch was introduced, the percentage went up to 70%.
The bond with others becomes narrower
In other investigations, it was found that physical contact activated the cerebral cortex area. This region has to do with feelings of conformity and trust. From these results, it was concluded that those who relate to others using touch, are perceived as more honest and trustworthy people.
One of the experiments tested the value of physical contact in another way. Deliberately, they left piles of garbage scattered on the street. Someone asked those who were there to help him collect the waste. 63% agreed to provide assistance. However, when a contact gesture was introduced, the proportion rose to 93%.
People feel more sympathy for those who establish physical contact with them. In France, users rated salespeople who shook hands, or a pat on the shoulder, much better than those who did not. Of course, cultural variables can cause these results to vary.
Physical contact with oneself
The sexologist Javier Sánchez has studied the subject of physical contact with oneself. He came to the conclusion that there are strong prohibitions, especially on girls, to touch their genitals. This has an effect on adult life: many feel as if his own sexuality did not belong to them.
In the case of men, families often repress and even punish tactile expressions of affection. Many times, they are urged to “be tough”, not to feel what touches their skin. Otherwise, they are classified as fragile and not very masculine. This is the reason why many men have difficulty stroking.