Why touch is a miracle drug

Touch is a miracle drug.

It plays a fundamental role in our development, our quality of life and health. Of course, we should not need a study to prove just how powerful touch is, but a growing body of research is proving just that for those who need the science to back it up.

A baby that is touched more will develop healthier, have a stronger immune system and fewer physical problems. Baseball and basketball teams that are "touchy" win more games. Students who get pats on the back by teachers perform better in tests. Couples that touch each other report more satisfaction in their relationships.

We need touch not just to survive but thrive.  It's a primal and necessary way of communicating. Hugs, holding hands, pats on our backs, group hugs--it's not hippie talk, it's real talk.

"It's amazing," child psychologist Dr Tiffany Field who heads the Touch Research Institute of Miami explains of the remarkable healing power of touch in premature babies she has studied, "how much information is communicable with touch. Every other sense has an organ you can focus on, but touch is everywhere."

Dr Field's also studies adults and her research has also shown just how critical touch is to grown ups: loving and gentle touch and massages from loved ones can ease pain, soothe depression and strengthen a relationship.

Adults who were not touched as babies likely grow up not to touch as adults and the cycle can continue. But you can actively change that.

Hugs are free. A loving touch is free.

After I read this piece 10 reasons why we need eight hugs a day, I wanted to start hugging everyone I saw.

Try it: a wonderful, bear hug, two hearts pressed against one another can alter brain chemistry, lower stress, boost self esteem, ease depression and relax muscles, among many other benefits.

Family therapist, Virginia Satir said we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve for growth. I'm not sure how many hugs you've received or given today, or the role that touch plays in your life, but if you want to make it a better day, start hugging. And if there are no humans you feel like hugging, a tree will always appreciate a little love too.