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Touching Other People Can Make You Healthier And More Successful, Study Finds

Touching Other People Can Make You Healthier And More Successful, Study Finds

In today’s world of technology and social media, often our connections are made through a screen rather than in person. This may have enabled us to connect at great distances and opened communication beyond timezones, but is the unintended consequence a loss of human physical touch, a vital connection for the health of humans?

“Connection is why we’re here it’s what gives us meaning and purpose in this life.” —  Brene Brown

Many positive psychology studies have shown people who feel a strong sense of connection have a greater sense of happiness. Our tactile system is important to our feelings of comfort and connection. In a blind study, it was shown that humans can recognize the emotion behind a touch. We can tell if a touch is delivered with compassion, joy, or anger. Without the use of touch accompanying our dialogue, we stand to lose out on this resource.

Some people instinctively touch more than others and we all respond differently to touch. How and why would we prioritize using this powerful sense to make us more attractive and successful?

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The Social Functions Of Touch

Touch:

  1. provides feelings of reward
  2. reinforces reciprocity
  3. signals safety
  4. soothes

Some fantastic studies concerning touch therapies have shown that touching premature babies actually aids in weight gain by 47%. Alzheimer patients have reduced incidence of depression with the use of touch. Touch by a teacher doubles the likelihood a child will choose to speak in class. Patients receiving touch therapy reported higher survival rates in the face of complex diseases.

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Josh Ackerman, a MIT psychologist, believes we understand the world through physical experiences with the primary sense being physical touch. He connects changes in peoples’ thoughts with different physical experiences. He recently published an article in Science Magazine about “embodied cognition,” a field of research that supports the concept of a mind-body connection. Ackerman’s studies attempt to link our physical sensations to our judgments and our social cognition.

Some of the outcomes have shown that kids are better at math when they use their hands while they’re thinking, actors can more easily recall their lines if they are able to move, and people are more generous after they’ve held a warm cup of coffee in their hands.

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Neuroscientist Edmund Ross has found that physical touch activates the orbitfrontal cortex of the brain, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.

Why Touch Matters

Touch is a language we instinctively know how to use. It is the first sense we develop and use to interpret incoming data. Touch increases the speed of communication—a touch soothes faster than words can form. Even fleeting contact with a stranger can have a measurable effect on both fostering and enhancing cooperation. Touch fosters a connection that sometimes leads to greater rewards.

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The Rules Of Touch

There are plenty of good reasons why people are inclined to keep their hands to themselves, especially in a society as litigious as ours. Fear of our touch being seen as sexual or taken as a sign of weakness are just two examples. According to the Touch Research Institute, when you stimulate the pressure receptors in the skin, you lower levels of stress hormones being released. So, how can we activate our sense of touch without offending others?

  • High fives and handshakes are acceptable at most workplaces and schools.
  • Ask before you hug.
  • A shoulder squeeze is acceptable with people you know.
  • Don’t assume it’s okay to pat a child on the head or to squeeze their cheeks—if you wouldn’t touch an adult that way, don’t touch a child that way.
  • In many sports, a slap on the butt is acceptable, but remember, not everyone plays sports. Keep this touch on the playing field.
  • Touching the arm of a lunch date is acceptable.
  • Avoid holding when you touch, this sense of being held can trigger the fight or flight response and increase anxiety in many people.

When in doubt, ask before you touch. Different cultures and countries have very different boundaries regarding touch, with warmer climates seeming to be more open to touching than cooler ones. North Americans lag way behind other cultures in their daily touch count.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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