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The Science of Touch
"What makes me happy?" is one of life's most vexing questions. Knowing what makes us happy, and how to bring happiness to others, has been the life’s goal of many philosophers since Lao Tzu and Aristotle to the present day SriSri Ravi Shankar. But the answer to this is not as complex as one might imagine. In fact, we need look no further than our own hands. The roots of human goodness are to be found in the nascent science of human touch.
Our fingers are 100 times better represented in our sensory cortex of the brain than any other part of our body. Therefore touch is one of the most easily perceived of our five senses and more satisfying.
“To touch is to give life” Michelangelo was so right, as science proves this very emotion.
Numerous studies have been done showing all of the positive benefits of touch: The immune response is found in the skin and benefits from receiving a lot of touch to living longer; the increases in weight in premature babies when touched more; there is greater involvement from children in class when a teacher gives a child a pat on the back or a touch on the hand; Touch has been shown to calm patients with Alzheimer’s and children with autism.
Warm, friendly patterns of touch also calm down the recipient's neurophysiology of stress. In one study, simply holding the hand of a loved one deactivated stress-related regions of the brain when anticipating going through a stressful experience.
Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure center in your brain that can offset feelings of anxiety.
In today’s digital world, many of us suffer acutely from “touch hunger” or, what social scientists call “affection deprivation.” This is a state in which we want or need more affection than we receive—with negative consequences on both the emotional and physical levels.
Adopting a mindful skin care routine could be the first step towards reducing “touch hunger”. The simple act of applying your daily skin care products with a calm and involved mind can stimulate the brain to secrete the feel good hormones that can alleviate the need for other mood elevators and
Touch is more than just processing information from the world around us. And as humans, we need it. A hug, a caress, a pat on the shoulder—these gestures add a rich context to how we interact with others. “Touch can have profound effects on the whole body. To a certain extent, it is a large part of who we are as mammals.
“A hug a day keeps you happy always!” Embrace yourself, your skin! #goskinpositive.