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How Important is Human Contact in Our Lives?

Elder women holding a persons hand

I was watching 60 Minutes last week and they had a segment on how doctors are creating prosthetics that may one day help amputees “feel” the world around them through electronic sensors. It was fascinating. During the program, I watched a gentleman who had lost his right hand in combat. Through a prosthetic, he was able to feel touch sensation and hold his wife’s hand again. That meant the world to him and made him feel like he got his life back. It got me thinking, “How important is touch for our overall health?”

Research has shown that touch can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, lessen depression and anxiety, and boost our immune system. Simply put, being touched boosts our mental and physical health.

The skin is the largest organ in our body which sends good and bad touch sensations to our brains. Since birth, skin-to-skin contact has proven to be beneficial and can help regulate a newborn’s heart rate, breathing, temperature, and calm infants. Babies are less likely to cry when being held or snuggling up to their mother.

Touch is critical in building healthy relationships. It helps produce the hormone Oxytocin which makes you feel good, lowering anxiety and fear. When we touch, we help communicate reassurance and safety. While food is important, our bodies also crave touch to help us feel better.

When the pandemic hit, many humans (especially the senior population) were deprived of touch, whether a handshake, a quick hug, or a high five/fist bump. Not only did we feel a lack of physical connection, but we also felt it mentally.

When we do not get enough physical touch, we can become stressed, anxious, and even depressed. This in turn can cause our heart rate, blood pressure and other physical ailments to rise. It may also lead to lack of quality sleep which can put a person at higher risk of infections or illness.

While we may not be able to fully compensate for a lack of human connection through touch, here are some tips that may help alleviate anxiety and loneliness:

  • Cuddle a Pet. Stroking a furry friend while it gives you affection can allow your brain to release the feel-good hormone Oxytocin.
  • Hold a Warm Cup of Coffee or Tea. This can help calm our heart rate and lower blood pressure.
  • Use a Weighted Blanket. This type of blanket can ground your body by creating a weighted pressure which can have a deeply calming effect.
  • Dance and Exercise. Ultimately, physical movement is an excellent way to combat anxiety. Exercise stimulates the pressure receptors under the skin, and as a result, slows the nervous system and reduces the production of stress hormones. Even people living with limited mobility can benefit by incorporating physical movement into their day.

I just lost my Dad last month and during the last week of his life, we did a lot of hand holding and hugging. As a result of this, we watched his anxiety and fears calm. It gave him peace of mind in the end and allowed us to be less stressed watching him pass away.

At Homewatch CareGivers of Southwest Denver, we are honored to offer clients enriching, engaging, and empowering companion care that helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and loneliness, which unfortunately many seniors experience. Our trained and compassionate caregivers assist with daily tasks while strengthening the persons overall well-being. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one.

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