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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

    Reference

    More by this author

    Ieva Baranova

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

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    “We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

    “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

    Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

    You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

    Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

    1. Take a step back and evaluate

    When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

    1. What is the problem?
    2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
    3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
    4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
    5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

    Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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    2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

    If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

    At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

    Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

    3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

    Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

    4. Process your thoughts/emotions

    Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

    1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
    2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
    3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
    4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

    5. Acknowledge your thoughts

    Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

    By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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    Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

    6. Give yourself a break

    If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

    7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

    A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

    Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

    After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

    8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

    As Helen Keller once said,

    “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

    Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

    9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

    In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

    1. What’s the situation?
    2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
    3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
    4. Take action on your next steps!

    After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

    10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

    A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

    Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

    For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

    11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

    No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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    12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

    No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

    13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

    There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

    After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

    Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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