The Power of Touch


In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.

The benefits of touch start from the moment we’re born. A review of research, conducted by Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment.


As Kelly Bartlett points out, being regularly physically affectionate with kids of all ages helps maintain the emotional connection they share with their parents. When that bond remains strong, challenging behavioral situations decrease and discipline becomes less intense overall.

Games involving person-to-person contact (e.g. horsey rides, piggy back rides, wrestling, tag etc.)  promote the release of positive brain chemicals and bring families closer together in a fun, physical way.

How To Advise A Couple Starting A FamilyFrom

As children grow and become more independent and social, opportunities for cuddling naturally diminish, and it becomes important for parents to take extra effort to find ways to physically connect with them. Reading to a child or even watching a movie on the couch is a wonderful way to get close, as it invites leaning into, lying on, snuggling, touching, and arm-wrapping.


And educators, take note: A study by French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen has found that when teachers pat students in a friendly way, those students are three times as likely to speak up in class.

Touch is very important for adults too. According to scientists, touch reduces both physiological and perceived stress; touch causes one’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, to decrease while causing other hormones, like oxytocin, to increase which promote social bonding and wellness.

Happy friends

According to Dacher Keltner, touch is our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion. In fact, in his research he has found that people can not only identify love, gratitude, and compassion from touches but can differentiate between those kinds of touch, something people haven’t done as well in studies of facial and vocal communication.


Interestingly enough, two gender differences have been identified in Dacher Keltner’s research:

  • when a woman tried to communicate anger to a man via touch, he got zero right—he had no idea what she was doing!
  • when a man tried to communicate compassion to a woman via touch, she didn’t know what was going on!

It might seem surprising, but touch may mean more to men than they let on: A 2011 study by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction polled more than 1,000 men and their female partners in five countries about the power of touch and found that for men between the ages of 40 and 70, regular cuddling was more important than sex. The more men hugged and kissed, the happier they considered their relationships.


There are times—during intense grief or fear, but also in ecstatic moments of joy or love—when only the language of touch can fully express what we feel. This video is an invitation for people to relearn the power of touch. There’s much to be gained from embracing our tactile sense—in particular, more positive interactions and a deeper sense of connection with others.

Did you touch someone today?



23 thoughts on “The Power of Touch

  1. bkpyett says:

    This is such an excellent post! When I was teaching you could tell which children had been loved. It makes the whole of life easier for them when they have the confidence that love engenders. I also believe in touch being a positive thing. Though the rules of this have changed; touch is not encouraged, which I see is to the detriment of the students. Thank you for a great post!
    Hug for you!

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Thanks for your insightful comment, Barbara. When I was working with children in an orphanage, most of them had a history of abuse (physical, verbal and in a few cases sexual abuse) and have been very traumatized by their past experiences. I found that they responded much better to a hug, a gentle touch, a pat on a shoulder or a rub on the back than anything else. Words alone would not work with them. Positive non-sexual touch was reassuring, soothing and comforting for them, essential for ‘bonding’. That ‘bonding’ provided foundation for teaching. Otherwise they would not listen to anything you say to them.

      Discouraging positive non-sexual touch in a social environment is like banning people from talking because it might increases the risk of verbal abuse. All people can easily distinguish positive talk from verbal abuse. In the same way, it is hard to confuse positive non-sexual touch from abusive, sexual or threatening.

    • Mélanie says:

      we’re on the same wave length… I used to be a teacher, too and I totally agree with your comment… my very best and cheers! 🙂

  2. satzie says:

    Beautiful 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Healingyourheartfromwithin. Thank you Otrazhenie, it is a very true piece.

  4. Reblogged this on Healing Your Heart! and commented:
    You feel the truth of this as you read it. That loss, or not, of the contact we receive as we grow up, becomes who we are and affects how we deal with all of our relationships. That understanding of how that contact builds and reinforces our ability to give and show that love we feel within, directs all of our lives. That contact, which may seem such a simple thing, IS who we are, and is shown daily in our day to day existence and how we interact with the world.

  5. Reblogged this on Your Core Value and commented:
    The Otrazhenie blog is always good, but this one shouldn’t be missed! The video at the end is powerful. Enjoy and practice the healing power of touch!

  6. Very powerful and true! Love the video at the end. I’ve shared this with my readers. Thank you!

  7. kp says:

    Powerful compilation of studies related to touch that affirms much of what we know intuitively….thanks for sharing…..Kim

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Glad that you liked this post, Kim. You are so right. I felt I always knew that intuitively, so was very pleased to see some evidence in the recent research. 🙂

  8. shoe1000 says:

    When I first got sober, I was led to a therapist who did what was back then called “bonding therapy.” She believed that we needed 20 minutes a day of bonding. Close, physical holding kind of bonding.
    It was called New Identity Process and it was started by a man named Daniel Casriel (not sure about the spelling) in the NYC area.
    Saved my life.

  9. So true, and very important to remember, thanks for sharing. The gender differences are fascinating! H xxx

  10. therapyjourney says:

    I want to touch more!

    A real eye opener, thank you!

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Glad that you liked that post. I’m a very emotional person and I would struggle to express my feelings without a touch, especially when it comes to children and babies. Still remember hugging and cuddling my little babies when they were little. Unforgetable feeling. 🙂

  11. […] The other day a near-stranger gave me a hug. Well, she was not a stranger – just an ex-colleague who was working in the same organisation with me for a few months. Such hugs are pretty normal here. In my birth land however she would be considered just an acquaintance – somebody you would never address with just their first name, as that would be considered too informal. First names can be used only for friends and relatives there. Colleagues, acquaintances and older people are always addressed with their first name and patronymic. And definitely no hugs… which is a pity as a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from hugs and touch. Some of these benefits are listed in my 2014 post The Power of Touch. […]

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