How can touching make me feel better?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
We all can harness -- and benefit from -- the power of touch. Whether skin is massaged tenderly or a trigger point is pressed to release a knotted muscle, touch can arouse a network of neural chemicals and hormones that lower blood pressure, block pain, increase happiness, and help fight the flu. Now research shows touch can even turn sour to sweet. Ten minutes of massaging makes a person more generous and trusting. All those benefits come to the person being touched and to the person doing the touching.

How does this happen? Massaging the skin activates nerves that calm down the body’s stress response and stimulate the brain’s happy hormones. The more you are stroked, the more blood pressure is reduced. Pain vanishes and pleasure takes its place. Touch also stimulates production of the hug hormone, oxytocin. It reinforces parent-child bonds and spikes during intercourse and orgasm, bathing the body in feel-good sensations.

Try these touch points:
  • Make a date. Research shows that couples who hold hands, massage each other, and cuddle for 30 minutes at least four times a week flood their bodies with anti-stress hormones.
  • Express your love. A shared kiss and expressions of affection stimulate hormone-transporting proteins that help boost mood. Try showing gratitude to spice up your love life.
  • Try pet therapy. Don't have a significant other? Snuggle with a cat or dog. Time with a pet is great at calming and lowering elevated blood pressure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.