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The Benefits of Human Touch to Strengthen Your Relationship

The Benefits of Human Touch to Strengthen Your Relationship

We all know that a soothing touch from your partner is pleasant. But few of us ever realize the immense benefits of human touch for our relationships.

Does it matter where we are touched, and how often?

As a recent study reveals, it does indeed.

The online study asked people aged 20 to 40 years to answer a question “Where do you prefer to be touched by your partner” and name one or several body parts.

As you would expect, the results show major differences between men and women in regard to their tactile preferences.

The biggest surprise?

Most of us have the same favorite body part that craves touch.

These are the top 3 places where we like to be caressed by our partner:

Women:

  1. Back
  2. Neck
  3. Legs & thighs

Men:

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  1. Back
  2. Neck
  3. Head & hair

Before we tell you more about the results, let’s look at why human touch is so important for cultivating a thriving relationship.

Why is touch important?

Touching others and being touched are fundamental modes of human interaction that are instrumental to our health and well-being.

Many studies have proven that humans need touch, particularly in childhood, almost as much as they need food and water. There are numerous benefits of human touch: from stress-relief to an improved mood and even pain reduction.

Humans have two touch systems – the factual (discriminative) and emotional. The latter is mediated by a very different set of sensors and nerve fibers, and it conveys information much more slowly. These could include a hug from a friend, mother’s touch to a child, or intimate contact between partners. They all activate the parts of the brain that are crucial for socially-bonding touch.

Today, when online communication seems to substitute face-to-face interaction, touching does not lose its importance. At the same time, we see that our lives become increasingly touch-free, as we can communicate and receive many services digitally.

Researchers have even coined a term ‘skin hunger’, which is a state of being touch-deprived and longing for physical human contact. Depression and health issues, both physical and mental, can often be the effects of ‘skin hunger’, most severely felt by seniors, prisoners, and other people who lead solitary lives.

It’s not surprising that movements related to the power of touching like Reiki or the Japanese healing art Jin Shin Jyutsu become more and more popular. Many people are even seeking “professional touchers” such as physical therapists or chiropractors, possibly to fill the void of affectionate touch by a fellow person.

Survey Results

To find out where we prefer to be touched, the couples clothing brand Be-With conducted an anonymous online survey. They asked people aged 20 to 40 years – 53% women and 47% men – to answer a question “Where do you prefer to be touched by your partner” and name one or several body parts.

    Survey results: Where we like to be touched by our partner

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    #1: The Back

    It turned out that the majority – 64% of women and 50% of men – prefer to be caressed on their back.

    The good news is that the back is one of the easiest body parts to be touched, as it can be done anywhere and anytime. In fact, most of us are okay even with friends and colleagues touching our backs occasionally.

    But why does a caring back-stroke by your partner produce a strikingly different sensation than a friendly pat on the back from a colleague?

    The reason why intimate back strokes and romantic touching, in general, are so powerful lies in the release of oxytocin – commonly known as the love hormone.

    As oxytocin levels increase during hugging and making love, there is a greater amount of it being produced among people who are in a relationships (both casual and longterm) than in those who are single.

    There’s also an age-old (and less romantic) explanation why most of us love when someone scratches our back. It turns out, back scratching used to be a grooming need – a favor done to our ancestors by their loved ones. With time, it evolved into a social, and even mating, function.

    #2: The Neck

    The neck is a peculiar spot – entirely visible and open to the public, yet at the same time, it is a very intimate area. As a study of 1,368 Europeans showed people are more reluctant to strangers, acquaintances, or even distant relatives touching their neck. [1]

    It all changes when it’s our intimate partner who’s doing the touching; then, the feeling is very special. The survey reflects this with 55% women and 39% of men admitting to like it when their neck is caressed by their significant other. No wonder since the neck area has a high concentration of light-touch receptors that go wild for gentle kisses and even a light tickle of breath. [2]

    It seems that the greater the pleasure incurred by touching a specific area of the body, the more selectively we allow other people to touch it.

    The Runners-Up: Arms, Legs, Head, and Shoulders

    The next most preferred areas for women to be touched are legs & thighs (25%), closely followed by shoulders (23%).

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    As for men, the head & hair area gets the bronze medal with 20% respondents, while arms and legs take the 4th and 5th place with 15% of guys loving to be touched there.

    Interestingly, only 8% of women claim to love when their arms are touched. Maybe we are not aware of the secret erogenous zones that our arms and legs hide – for example, the inner wrist, feet and the spot behind the knee. However, even caressing the more “popular” zones like the upper thigh or the arm can spark a warm feeling between partners. [3]

    What about…down there?

    As we go lower, the greater differences begin. When it comes to our most sacred zones, 15% of men give preference to being touched ‘down there’ while only 2% of women do.

    Why are we so different in this?

    The differences between how men and women perceive the delicate matter of intimacy are the subject of many books and studies. One of the reasons might be that for women, their private parts are reserved for only the most intimate of moments when they have chosen to let down their barriers.

    Men, on the other hand, generally have gotten acquainted with their intimate areas sooner, since early childhood and thus tend to be more open about them or even associate them with emotional and physical pride.

    Still, the survey reveals that, contrary to how men are commonly portrayed, their private parts are by far not their most preferred touching zone.

    Intimate touching vs. Non-Intimate touching

    The above survey results indicate that for couples, touching that represents companionship and support that matters even more than touching the intimate areas that have the greatest potential to bring pleasure.

    However, we are not going to deny that intimacy is crucial for cultivating a strong and long-lasting relationship.

    What’s essential here is not limiting touches to intimate play only.

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    While every other magazine cover seems to scream of intimacy and push some sort of “relationship agenda” on us, it’s surprising how little we talk about the importance of non-sexual physical affection.

    For example, studies have found that affectionate physical behavior like hugging can reduce blood pressure and lower reactions to stressful life events. [4]

    When you are in a relationship, touching begins to have an even more profound impact. Those who have been in relationships will remember those months of being in love when eye contact in combination with touch stirred up the butterflies in the stomach. If you had even the slightest doubt about the romantic attitude of the person beside you, the “accidental” hand-touching had the power to remove it altogether.

    As the relationship matures, the importance of touching grows and diversifies. For example, daily cuddling can strengthen the relationship and enhance love, which are probably some of the most important benefits of human touch.

    Also, relationships in which physical affection is prioritized lead to less fighting. Even if you do find yourself in a conflict, it can be easier solved with touching; if the couple shows signs of physical affection like hugging and cuddling while they’re experiencing problems, they are likely to resolve their conflict sooner.

    The Benefits of Human Touch for Your Relationship

    In the never-ending rush through life, work, and other chores, a simple gesture like a hug or a touch can go a long way to benefit a relationship.

    And it can work the other way around too; lack of physical proximity can make you grow apart.

    For some couples, it comes naturally. Others might need to make a concerted effort. If you would like to introduce more touching into your relationship, you can agree to experiment with a more-touch-policy for a month and see how you’re feeling. Or, try touch-encouraging products or accessories like a cuddle mattress or couples’ clothing with secret openings for touching.

    If you’re experiencing relationship strife, try the simple act of human touch to bring the spark back.

    Featured photo credit: Christiana Rivers via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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    Ieva Sipola

    Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.

    How Social Media Can Hurt Your Job Search And Your Future Career How to Change Your Mindset for a Happy And Successful Life Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress Does Coffee Really Improve Work Performance? [Experiment + Infographic] How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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