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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 November 18, 2020

14 Things That Make You Happy and Enjoy Life More

14 Things That Make You Happy and Enjoy Life More

Do you ever come across people who are always upbeat and no matter what life throws at them? While people can be genetically disposed toward happiness, it’s more likely that these people have simply discovered more of the things that make you happy in life and utilize them to their advantage.

The good news is that you can increase your own happiness quotient by doing these 14 things that make people happy.

1. Start With a Good Dose of Gratitude

Being consciously aware of what you’re thankful for can actually change your level of happiness.

When you wake up each morning, spend time recalling all the things for which you feel grateful. Before you go to bed, you can keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 to 5 things that you felt grateful for that day and why. Use all five senses to imagine these things vividly in order to help you brain latch on to all that goodness.

Gratitude leads to more things that make you happy

    One study found that, among mindfulness, belief in personal control, and gratitude, “happiness among students was primarily predicted by gratitude”[1].

    You can learn how to start a gratitude journal here.

    2. Make Sure You’re Giving Back

    Do you give 10% of your income to your favorite charity or organization? Instead of spending money on yourself, you’ll feel happier giving to others.

    There’s something about giving that allows you to receive more in return besides just the act of giving to help others. When you give, you’re sending a message to the Universe that you know everything’s going to be alright.

    According to a study published in 2010, “people experienced happier moods when they gave more money away—but only if they had a choice about how much to give”[2]

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    By giving, you’ll be taken care of, too. You see it from those with very little to those who have millions: you have to give to get, and by doing that, your happiness increases.

    3. Laugh Every Day (It’s Better than Money)

    Do you spend time each day laughing? Do you purposefully find happy things to laugh about?

    When you laugh, you release happy hormones called oxytocin and endorphins. These are hormones that uplifts us as we share experiences with others. Even just making yourself smile will put you in a better place.

    It is thought that the fact that laughter releases these hormones in order to promote social bonding, so try getting together with friends for a good dose of laughter, as well as increased social connection[3]. These are things that make you happy.

    4. Foster Good Relationships With Family and Friends

    Happy people don’t spend large amounts of time alone. By spending time with people you like and love, you forge supportive relationships that help people feel better during times of stress.

    You also bond with others through common experiences, such as life’s ups and downs. They become your support network and help bring more of the things that make people happy.

    People who don’t spend as much time with family or friends are more prone to loneliness and depression. Here’s How to Tell If You Are Fostering Positive Relationships in Life.

    5. Take Some Alone Time

    In contrast to spending time with family and friends, it’s important to step back and take some time for yourself in order to cultivate self-care.

    You can recharge your spirit and find a little peace. Taking some time away and being alone can do wonders for your mood and outlook, as well as help you find the meaning of true happiness.

    Use this time to do more of the things that make you happy, such as a favorite hobby, exercise, or simple relaxation. Even just sitting in the sun or listening to your favorite song can improve your life satisfaction in the short term.

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    6. Do What You Love

    Have you ever heard the phrase, “Do what you love, and the money will follow?” Doing things that you love to do–and even better, getting paid for it–are good ways to boost your levels of happiness.

    When work feels like play, you’re more likely to enjoy other aspects of your life more, too.

    7. Volunteer Your Time

    When you give your time or talent, your focus shifts from your life to that of others.

    This can help you realize that your own problems may not be that bad. You invariably forge new relationships and experience an uplift in your spirit.

    Furthermore, volunteering can give you a sense of purpose and keep you active during downtime in your life. It will also increase self-confidence as you begin to feel better about yourself and your place in the world[4].

    8. Get Enough Exercise

    Among the things that make you happy, few are as well researched as exercise. When you take time out for exercise, you’re doing your body good in more ways than one.

    First, you’re doing what it was designed to do: physical exertion. Humans were made to move around, and the body works best when it does what it was meant to do.

    Furthermore, as you exercise, you release a ton of feel-good hormones. These hormones can help increase happiness levels, as well as lower stress.

    One study found that “Exercisers were more satisfied with their life and happier than non-exercisers at all ages”[5]. And the good news is that it takes as little as 30 minutes to gain the amazing benefits of exercise.

    Try these 10 Simple Morning Exercises to Make You Feel Great All Day

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    9. Avoid Regrets

    We all make mistakes in life–that’s part of the human condition. However, with a little forethought, you can try to avoid making big mistakes and focus more on the happy things in life.

    Even then, they still happen. That’s when it’s best to learn to forgive–yourself and others–because everyone else just trying to get through life the best they can, too. They’ll make mistakes, but the trick is moving on from them.

    10. Take Time to Meditate

    Sitting down, lighting a candle and doing some deep breathing for 10 minutes is all it takes to relax your mind and body.

    In doing so, you get in touch with your inner-self, and invariably, you’ll get to know your values and priorities a little better. That’s definitely a booster on the happiness scale and will lead you toward more of the things that make you happy.

    11. Deal With Clutter

    Are you overrun with books and papers piled everywhere? Too much mail sitting on the table? Why not tackle a small task each day for a month in an effort to de-clutter your life?

    When you’re not running around looking for items you can’t find, and when everything has its place, you’ll automatically be less stressed and in a better mental state.

    That’s a great place to be on Monday morning when you’re trying to get out the door and you already know where the lunchboxes are, and the bills you have to mail.

    Here’s a guide to help you declutter: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

    12. Get Enough Rest

    Among the things that make people happy, sleep is one of the easiest and most natural. Ever notice how cranky you are in the afternoon when you’ve only had 5 or 6 hours of sleep? Many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation, which can lead to higher levels of stress and edginess.

    Research has shown that simply getting enough sleep “improves memory, increases people’s ability to concentrate, strengthens the immune system and decreases people’s risk of being killed in accidents”[6].

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    After a good night of sleep, you can tackle your daily tasks in a more calm, alert way. It’s so much better than experiencing that awful sluggish feeling in that oh-so-important meeting with your boss. Your body will thank you, too.

    13. Eat Healthier Foods

    You’ve heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” Healthy, nutritious foods not only make your body feel good, but they can improve your mental health as well.

    If you spend your time eating package after package of boxed noodles, canned dinners, or fast food, your body is going to let you know by gaining weight, feeling sluggish, and quite possibly having a host of health problems. How can you look and feel your best if the foods you eat are not good for you?

    By eating better, you’re not only taking care of yourself, but you’ll also feel more vibrant and energetic. You’ll literally be healthier from the inside out.

    Try the tips in this article: How to Start Eating Healthy No Matter How Old You Are

    14. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

    This is definitely easier said than done, but if you can condition your mind to focus on the good that you are doing and the good things in your life, you’re not going to be tempted to focus on how others are doing.

    Research on the effects of social media use has found that upward comparisons on social media are associated with lower self-esteem[7].

    Here are some tips to help you stop comparing yourself to others.

    Final Thoughts

    Happiness comes from all the small things and habits you do every day. If you want to start living a happy life, practice these 14 happy things and fit them into your daily routine!

    More on Things That Make You Happy

    Featured photo credit: Matheus Ferrero via unsplash.com

    Reference

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