In an overcrowded world we are fast becoming a non-communicative species that relies on social media for contact. But skin is the largest organ in our body and as human beings we crave physical contact.
Why is touch so important?
The first sense a baby experiences is touch while developing the skills of sight, hearing and speech. Research has indicated that it is the most important of all the senses.
Growing up in an environment of regular platonic touch increases trust and security and may help to reduce a child’s propensity for aggression and violence. It may also reduce the incidence of disease and help to strengthen our immune systems.
There are many reasons we touch those around us: to show love, respect or support, to comfort, to reassure… the list goes on. Touch is also an important part of our ability to communicate non-verbally and a sophisticated way of elaborating on messages sent by speech and body language.
The language of touch
While there are many different types of touch, the two most common are formal and informal. Formal touch is how we physically interact with people who are either strangers or those we know on a professional level. Gestures such as handshakes, pats on the back and high fives are examples of this. More in-depth intimacy can send the wrong message.
The gentle reassuring touch from a spouse, close friend or relative is an expression of our love. Informal touch is more an expression of how we feel about those we are close to. Hugs, holding hands and even a gentle touch of a loved one’s hand can comfort and reaffirm affection. Informal touch is also emotionally important to those who live alone such as the elderly, people who are in supported care or incarcerated.
Massage is an example of formal and informal touch. It can be done professionally, as an intimate gesture or to reassure or soothe babies. Deprivation of touch contributes to loneliness and in the case of infants and children, can contribute to developmental delay.
In a society dominated by social media, many of us have become afraid to reach out and touch those we are close to. Building up trust with informal touch is usually a slow and gradual process but do not be afraid to show your love to those you are closest to.