Touch is absolutely essential to human beings. Just holding hands, sharing a hug, giving a pat on the back, a hand on the arm or other simple touches can have a tremendous impact on our mental and physical well-being; not to mention the state of our relationships. The opposite is equally true.
Babies deprived of touch don’t develop normally because certain connections in the brain actually disappear. Orphans who receive very little touch often die as a result, and those who survive can experience permanent physical and/or mental retardation.
Kids who don’t get enough touch often grow up to become aggressive and antisocial adults. Older adults who don’t get enough touch also suffer, becoming senile sooner, and dying earlier.
We’re all affected by touch, and it’s not “all in the mind”; rather it’s the result of complex hormonal responses which actually change our bodies and brains. The primary hormone involved in this amazing process is called oxytocin.
We of course need to be mindful of appropriate touch and not violating someone’s personal space. But we shouldn’t let that concern stop us from the kind of healthy, beneficial touching that God wired into us.
A recent poll of 4,000 couples found that those spouses who described themselves as “very happy” tended to hug one another at least four times a day. Think you’re doing that in your marriage? Go ahead. Keep track for a few days. You might be surprised at what you discover.
The same is certainly true with our other family members, close friends and daily acquaintances. Touch not only creates positive emotional and physical changes within that person, but it creates positive feelings in that particular relationship.
I think that’s why I like the time our church family takes to greet one another at the start of every worship gathering. Some might consider it old school or old-fashioned; I consider it just plain healthy for a variety of reasons.