The Power of Touch
The skin is approximately 20 sq. ft. the size of a twin mattress. When someone gives you a hug or touches you just under the skin there are pressure receptors called the Pacinian Corpuscles says Tiffany Fields from the Touch research lab at the University of Miami. They receive pressure stimulation and this sends a signal to the brain directly to a very important nerve bundle called the Vagus Nerve, sometimes referred to as “the wanderer” because it has branches that wander into the body and to internal organs. It also goes to other parts of the body like the heart and can slow heart rate down. Field research was done with people preparing to give public speeches or facing a stressful event and found that being hugged or having their hand held would lower their blood pressure and heart rate. When hugged or holding hands it decreases the stress hormone called cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands when we’re facing a stressful situation.
Lower Cortisol and increase Oxytocin
Matt Hertenstein a psychologist from De Pauw University says that being able to tamp down our cortisol levels is healthy for us. Having this friendly touch and simply holding hands buffers the effect of this hormone. In addition to calming us down a friendly touch or massage also increases the release of a hormone called oxytocin referred to at times as the trust hormone. It’s also called the cuddle hormone eliciting feelings of bonding, and connection. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that acts as a neurotransmitter which promotes this feeling of trust and bonding. It really lays the biological foundation for connecting to one another. It also just makes us feel good. Recent studies from England have pinpointed that an area of the brain that becomes highly activated in response to touch is the Orbital Frontal Cortex, just above the eyes, it is the same area that responds to sweet tastes and pleasing smells. Touch actually lights up the Frontal Cortex, much like chocolate. It also lowers Heart Rate and Blood Pressure.
Hugs are better than Drugs!
Temple Grandin a doctor of animal science, and a person with high functioning autism is a professor at Colorado University. She is also a consultant to the livestock industry in animal behavior. Grandin, well known for her work in autism advocacy is the inventor of the hug machine designed to calm hypersensitive persons.
I plan on writing more about cortisol, the stress hormone, how it affects us, what we can do to buffer it, and how it relates to PTSD, Trauma , Addiction and Weight Management.
So reach out and hug somebody and let someone hug you. It feels good and it’s good for you